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Crazy Enough….

Thank you, Steve Jobs, for inspiring dreamers. For being audacious, relentless and a man of integrity. We are better because of you. You will be missed.

Here’s to the crazy ones.

The misfits.
The rebels.
The troublemakers.
The round pegs in the square holes.

The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules.
And they have no respect for the status quo.

You can praise them, disagree with them, quote them,
disbelieve them, glorify or vilify them.

About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.
Because they change things.

They invent.    They imagine.     They heal.
They explore.     They create.    They inspire.
They push the human race forward.

Maybe they have to be crazy.

How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art?
Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written?
Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?

We make tools for these kinds of people.
While some see them as the crazy ones,
we see genius.

Because the people who are crazy enough to think
they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Booklist: The Travel Books

The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page. ~St. Augustine.

Ours is a family of gypsies. We LOVE to travel. Early in our marriage, Mike and I decided that experiences and memories would always have priority over stuff as we made choices regarding allocation of time and of money. So, while I buy most of my clothing at Goodwill and consignment stores, clip coupons, and never buy anything that is not on sale, ours is a family that has seen a good bit of the world.

It is not necessarily at home that we best encounter our true selves. The furniture insists that we cannot change because it does not; the domestic setting keeps us tethered to the person we are in ordinary life, who may not be who we essentially are. ~Alain de Botton

Traveling to far-off places has a tendency to help us find bits of ourselves, and of one another, that have lain hidden. It challenges and inspires us. And, it gives us a treasure trove of memories that are part of the cement that binds us as a family.

When we are not traveling, I am frequently reading about the travels of others, or combing through guide books and dreaming about our next trip. Here are a few of my favorites. Be sure and tell me yours.

Travel Guides

Rick Steves’ Europe Through the Back Door  Rick Steves has been my best friend in planning the several trips we have made to Europe. He and I share a common philosophy about travel: While in a foreign country, one should soak up as much of the authentic culture as possible. Eat where they eat. Sleep in their neighborhoods. Shop in their markets. Why would I want to travel to Istanbul to sleep in an American chain hotel and eat at McDonalds? I can do that here.

Steves puts his decades of experience to work for me, and helps me find those quirky, off-the-beaten-path places that put me in direct contact with the people I am visiting. Our family is eternally grateful to him for introducing us to one of our favorite destinations EVER: Vernazza in the Cinque Terra (along the Italian Riviera). Europe Through the Backdoor gives a great overview and some general travel tips that are helpful wherever you might find yourself in Europe. His guides for individual countries give more specific information.

I especially like his walking guides, both for cities and for museums, highlighting attractions on the way. And, not surprisingly, I appreciate the historical information as well as curiosities and trivia.

DK Eyewitness Travel Top 10 Concise. Full color illustrations. Small enough to slide into your back pocket. They always include helpful street and metro maps. Usually specific to a city or a region (like Provence). We have them for New York, Chicago, Paris, Dublin, and London. They begin by giving their top ten things to see in the city. Then they give top ten lists for categories: museums, pubs, restaurants, hotels, children’s attractions, sporting events, etc… They usually include a list of excursions outside the city as well. For example, the Dublin guide gave us information about the whole of Ireland. While Rick Steves takes you in through the back door, these guides will make sure you know about all the major don’t miss attractions.

If I still need info after consulting these two sources, I consult guides from Frommer’s and Fodor’s. I love that they too are now adding color photographs to many of their guides. I like the traveling philosophy of the Lonely Planet guides and have, at times, found valuable information therein. But, I find their organizational system cumbersome.

Travelogues

The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton  I make an unusual exception here in that this is the first book I have ever included on a booklist before having read the whole of it. The portions I have read convince me that, if the rest were rubbish (most unlikely) it would still be a valuable read. The author is a contemplative. He takes as his companions on his exploits artists and writers who give him new eyes with which to see the world. He rolls around ideas and observations that are most intriguing. Thoughts about anticipation, curiosity, beauty, art, and seeing our own everyday world as a destination worthy of reflection.

To the Field of Stars by Father Kevin A. Codd  A compelling personal story of pilgrimage, of discovery, of communion…along the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. This pilgrimage is on my own bucket list. Father Codd’s beautiful account of struggle and pain, generosity and joy is stoking my desire.

Jesus spent a lot of time on the road…I wanted to know what it was like to live as he lived, depending on his feet to keep him bound to the earth and moving forward towards his destiny. Know his feet, know him.

A Thousand Days in Tuscany by Marlena De Blasi  De Blasi’s background as a food writer is obvious every time she describes the ridiculous food she enjoys in Tuscany. My mouth waters. And I start looking for apartments in Tuscany… This is a beautiful book about a roughly 3 year period she and her husband spend becoming part of a small, close knit Tuscan village. Great community meals, grape harvests, crusty old seasoned characters. Marvelous.

A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle

We had talked about it during the long gray winters and the damp green summers…looked with an addict’s longing at photographs of village markets and vineyards, dreamed of being woken up by the sun slanting through the bedroom window…

Mmm hmmm. Me too, Peter, me too. Thing is, even though Mayle is completely honest about the challenges…cracked pipes, the brutal Mistral winds, falling roof tiles, etc…I find myself, on the last page, wanting more than ever to spend a long season in France. Mayle’s evocative descriptions take me there. And nourishes the dream….

Round Ireland With a Fridge by Tony Hawks  A drunken wager gives way to an ironic adventure.  An endeavor so ludicrous, so perplexing, so…intriguing…that folks can’t help joining in. Offering rides, food, lodging. Soon, his reputation precedes him. And his folly becomes a national phenomenon. An unlikely, yet completely true story. An inside look at the ordinary people you and I might have missed. Great fun.

Addendum:  Keep in mind that plenty of books having nothing to do with travel can deepen and enrich your travel experience. For example, planning a visit to Ireland? Take a look at How the Irish Saved Civilization, Beauty: the Invisible Embrace, Angela’s Ashes, Dubliners, the poetry of W.B. Yeats or Seamus Heaney. These books will help you understand everything you see; the architecture, the art, the churches, the markets, the faces, the ethos, the very essence of the people.

God Who Told Stories

A friend of mine, a fine storyteller, remarked to me, “Jesus was not a theologian. He was God who told stories.”
~Madeleine L’Engle

All these things Jesus spoke to the multitude in parables [stories]; and without a parable he did not speak to them.
~Matthew 13:34

Why stories? Why not rules? Precepts? Propositional truth? Why in the world would the Creator of the universe sit around spinning yarns?

Could it be that Christ had something for us that was too round, too subtle, too textured and layered to be summarized into 3 points? Or 5 steps? Or 7 secrets?

A story isn’t really any good unless it successfully resists paraphrase, unless it hangs on and expands in the mind.
~Flannery O’Connor

Hangs on?

Expands in the mind?

Brothers Karamazov  Peace Like a River  Til We Have Faces  Lilith  My Name is Asher Lev  The Alchemist …just to name a few. Stories that wrap themselves around me. That draw me in. Asher’s pain is my pain. When Ruben wonders why the healing his father gives to others is not given to him, I wonder too. What Santiago sees, I see. I breathe the same air. The same grains of sand sting my skin. When Lilith dies…I die.

And the stories roll around in my head for weeks…months…rankling, provoking, stretching me, giving me hope…

Truth we have lived is truth we own. Experience is a most effective schoolmaster. When we encounter great stories, those experiences become ours as well. We stand inside truth that is too complicated and messy, too transcendent and glorious, to be reduced to a principle. It must be wrestled with. Clawed at. Cursed. Clung to. Celebrated. And finally, taken deep within. Til it becomes part of our blood.

Why did God tell stories? What was it that He would give to us that could only be given in this form? What do you think?

The Reckoning

For me, one test of a great album is that I love it more with every listen. By that standard, The Reckoning is a great album.

Jake and I have hungered for a new release from NeedToBreathe for a very long time. But, I must admit, I was nervous. What if it didn’t measure up? What if I didn’t love it as much as The Outsiders? What if they had used up all their creativity?

No worries. The first track, Oohs and Ahhs, dispelled all my fears. First there were the wailing guitar riffs, then the false ending that built into a free for all with screaming horns–the last thing I expected, but perfect–and I knew this was going to be a great ride.

I would say that, over all, their rockabilly style has gotten a bit more aggressive on this effort. It’s a good fit.

In a measure of unusual restraint, I tell you about only my very favorites here, though there is not a throw-away on the album.

White Fences  An anthem, the sort of which NeedToBreathe does so well. I like singing along with it at the top of my lungs. I like remembering what it was like to sing along with them at the Ryman, with others, also singing at the top of their lungs. The sort of intimate experience that makes you feel like you know them. Even if you don’t. I don’t.

A Place Only You Can Go  I kept waiting for the ballad. Oh, yes, there is a ballad. Torturous. True. The instrumentation alone would wrest tears from me, were not the lyrics already so poignant. Perhaps you must have led my schizophrenic  life to hear an Irish lament fused with a campmeeting song from the gut here. But, you would have to be dead to not feel something.

Slumber  A driving call to stop living someone else’s regurgitated, tired old life and “open up your eyes”.

Days they force you
Back under those covers
Lazy mornings they multiply
But glory’s waiting
Outside your window
So wake on up from your slumber
And open up your eyes…

Able  The dobro and piano provide the evocative lament. Even though I am strong, I am not enough on my own. I recognize this torturous confession. I know it intimately. I also know the joy to be found in surrendering my striving to be enough. And this song finds that as well. A choir  joins the swell of the instruments as we open our hands and let grace be enough. Thanks be to God!

Keep Your Eyes Open  If you know me, you know this is my credo. I could find no better theme song.

Cause if you never leave home, never let go
You’ll never make it to the great unknown
So you keep your eyes open…

Today is a good day for lovers of intelligent, creative, ballsy music with heart. This is such.

Ghosts Upon the Earth

Sometimes it seems like the most real thing is what we can see and experience with our senses around us – this life, the tangible…Ideas like love, like God, these things sometimes feel more disconnected and ethereal, like that’s the ghostly real. This is turning it on its head, recognizing that God is real, love is real, and we are the ghosts walking upon the earth, wanting to become more real. 
~Michael Gungor

A tone poem, of sorts. An illumination…in sound…of the beauty and fragility of life. A musical experience you can stand inside. A fusion of lyric and sound that will crawl inside you. An artistically exquisite exploration of all that matters…..

Ghosts Upon the Earth, the new album by Gungor, drops one week from today. It is one of the most intriguing, provocative, and artful works I have encountered in a while. I can’t stop listening to it. These are my distinctly personal listening notes. I do not presume to voice their intent in crafting the music, only my reaction to it.

Let There Be  Ever since reading The Magician’s Nephew, I have always imagined God singing the world into being. Now I know what it sounds like… Atonal meanderings drift, meterless. A voice wandering, lost. Then a gentle summons: Let there be… Echoed. Joined by other ethereal voices. Beats push and pull against one another, as cosmos is wrested from chaos. Building to a glorious crescendo, Let there be light!!! The energy, the rightness of this moment throbbing, exultant, ecstatic!

Brother Moon  and Crags and Clay  Both are celebrations of the One who makes all things beautiful. The first is a playful nod to St. Francis; a frolic. The second is a meditation..quiet at first…growing in intensity. Lovely.

The Fall  A tender lament of innocence lost. Voices rise and fall together in a plea…winsome, persistent. How long will You wait? Make things right, O God. Turn your face to us.

When Death Dies  A dream without bounds…of a world made right. Barely a whisper at first. Then a riotous celebration of possibility. Hope. When death dies, ALL things live.

Church Bells  One of my very favorites. Very like a Venetian barcarolle. A gentle invitation to surrender cynicism, and remember joy. Unadulterated. Without agenda. Clean.

Let church bells ring. Let children sing.
Even if they don’t know why, let them sing.
Why drown their joy…stifle their voice
Just because you’ve lost yours?

May our jaded hearts be healed. Amen.

Let old men dance, lift up their hands.
Even if they are naive, let them dance.
You’ve seen it all. You’ve watched them fall.
Wash off your face and dance.

May our weary hearts be filled with hope. Amen.

Amen.

Wake Up Sleeper  Discombobulation. Unconventional harmonies. Mixed meter, including an unsettling passage in 7/8. Instruments leaping back and forth between speakers. The world is being turned upside down. Or…then again…right side up. As it should be. The poor, the sick, the despised, inherit the Kingdom. And corrupt manipulators, users, exploiters, are exposed.  What a ride! Brilliant!

Ezekiel  This one is intensely personal for me. Excruciating. I have been so often faithless, selling myself to anyone who would promise to fill my empty places. I have broken the heart of my Lover. Over and over. He sings to me here. Of relentless love. Of eyes that see who I am. Inside. Beneath my horrible choices. And He calls me back….

Vous Etes Mon Coure (You Are My Heart)  Une chanson d’amour. Très beau. Avec la mandoline. Délicieux.

This is Not the End  Faith is, above all, a journey. The Way. This is not the end of this. We will open our eyes wide, wider...

You Are the Beauty  A rollicking celebration of the One who has made all things beautiful. Who did not abandon us, even when we abandoned Him. Who is turning the world upside down to redeem us and put all things right. And who pursues us relentlessly. Selah.

Every Breath  Finally, a love song back to Him. He who has loved extravagantly. A giving of myself. The very words I am looking for. Perhaps, the words you are looking for, too…

Buy the album. Then give yourself the gift of undivided attention for a listen all the way through. Take a walk in the woods. Sit on your porch in the moonlight. Light a candle. Pour a glass of wine. And let it wash over you. It is unlike anything you have experienced. Yet.

P.S. If you are lucky enough to live in (or near) Atlanta or Nashville, you can be part of an album release show next week. Click your city for more info. I will be at the Nashville show with my guys. Perhaps I’ll see you there. 🙂

Booklist: Picture Books

Picture Books are a world unto themselves. It is here, most often, that children will wet their literary toes. In the best of them, illustrations and words dance in and out of one another with ease. The one illuminates the other. Sometimes they frolic, at other times they waltz. But always, the two are one.

I hope your childhood was resplendent with beautiful picture books. Books that tickled, and provoked, and nourished your imagination. Books that taught you to love words. The way they slither and slide, the way they play, the way they sing. I share here a few of our favorites. Please tell me about yours. I do have a little granddaughter who is already in love with books. She will need to know them.

The Complete Tales of Beatrix Potter For the elegant language, the sublime watercolors, and mostly for the endearing characters who peopled the lives of my children and me for a season, I owe a great debt to Ms. Potter.

The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne The writing is clever. The characters  thoroughly loveable. The misadventures goodhearted and fun. And, don’t be surprised if you find yourself on a bridge someday playing Poohsticks.

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown I can still recite the whole of it from memory, I read it so many times. When I asked Kelsey about books from her childhood she would like Kenzie to have, it was the first one she mentioned. A sweet benediction. A deep breath of quiet.

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr., John Archambault, and Lois Ehlert Thus far, this is Kenzie’s favorite. I don’t know if it’s the bright colors or the lilting cadence but she gets so excited when I pull the book out. An alphabet book with rhythm.

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Burton My husband (Mike Mullican) loved this book as a boy. Obviously. Never mind the one little letter difference in his name. It is a story of loyalty and love. A step back in time to a world less complicated.

Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak This Caldecott winner was one of my childhood favorites. And I passed my love of it on to our children. (Kelsey covered our copy in Christmas stickers one year. I have never been able to part with it.)

All the Eric Carl Books, especially Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, The Very Quiet Cricket, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar Eric Carle’s beautiful tissue paper illustrations can still take my breath away. Stunningly gorgeous! I love looking at all the details in them. Whether paired with Bill Martin’s rhymes, or simple stories of industrious insects, these books captivated my children. Kenzie is already a fan of Brown Bear, Brown Bear.

Blueberries for Sal and Make Way For Ducklings by Robert McCloskey Books remembered, again, from my own childhood. Simple, sweet stories along with glorious Caldecott winning illustrations made these books that we read over and over. Nothing beats an early morning reading of Blueberries for Sal just before heading off to the blueberry patch.

All the D’Aulaire books  The Caldecott winning husband and wife team of Ingri and Edgar D’Aulaire created sumptuous, whimsical picture books. Mostly biographies of American luminaries like George Washington, Abe Lincoln, and Pocohontas. But their book of Greek Myths is one of the best I’ve ever read. And you can’t beat their illustrations.

When I Was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant Much of this story is my story. Baptizin’ in the old swimmin’ hole, fried okra, outhouses, breaking beans on the front porch. If it is not your world, pop by for a visit. Rylant tells a compelling story and the illustrations are lovely.

You Can’t Take a Balloon Inside the Metropolitan Museum by Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman and Robin Glasser An unwieldy, runaway balloon has a number of misadventures out and about New York while its owner peruses works in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In a very creative “life imitates art” approach, the scenes encountered by the balloon mimic the art works observed by the little girl. Such fun!! And there are no words. You must supply the story yourself. A great pre-reading book.

The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado Lucado has written a number of lovely children’s books, but this one is my favorite. The truth that the Incarnation is good news for everyone, especially those who feel left out, is winsomely told here. And the paintings are magnificent.

Mama Do You Love Me? by Barbara M. Joosse A mother’s love has no limits. Nothing her child does could ever change that. That is the message this book tells with its lovely illustrations drawn from the native Inuit culture of Alaska.

Love you Forever by Robert Munsch and Sheila McGraw I’ll admit the concept of an elderly mother climbing a ladder into her son’s room at night is a little far-fetched. And yet, the truth of this book has always over-ridden its impracticalities. Another of the books Kelsey asked for specifically. I guess the truth got through to her as well. 🙂

Yonie Wondernose and Henner’s Lydia by Marguerite De Angeli De Angeli lived in an Amish community for a while. With these books, she takes us there as well. And we see inside the life of a little boy and a little girl. Their mischief. Their longings. And the beauty of their simple, but rich lives.

The Day Jimmy’s Boa Ate the Wash by Trinka Hakes Noble and Stephen Kellogg “How was your class trip?” Kinda boring. Until the cows started crying.” “Why were the cows crying?” And so begins a rollicking backward adventure that any child (or any adult for that matter) will find HYSTERICAL!

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff Maybe I like it so much because it reminds me of the way I do housework. One thing leads to another…. My kids loved this whole series of books about inevitability and circuitous thinking. Great fun.

OK. Your turn. GO!!!

 

 

Un-booklist

Firemen no longer put out fires, they start them. It is their job to eradicate any clandestine stash of books that may be found. The powers that be have decided it is dangerous to allow people to think for themselves. Therefore, they will be told what to think. And nothing poses a greater threat to manipulation and propaganda than books.

This, in brief, is the disturbing and eerily plausible world presented by Ray Bradbury in the book Fahrenheit 451. Brave souls who attempt to preserve books face imprisonment or even death. But there is a remnant…an outcast group of scholars and intellectuals living like hobos on the periphery of civilization (if you can call it civilization). They know that a culture that does not think is destined to implode eventually. And when that time comes, they will be needed.

Each of these men carries with him the books that will be needed to rebuild the world. But, he carries it inside him. Books like Plato’s Republic, Marcus Aurelius, Machiavelli’s The Prince, the writings of Albert Einstein and Albert Schweitzer, the Magna Charta, the four Gospels… have been committed to memory. Astounding, but not impossible. A recent film, The Book of Eli, explores a similar premise.

Today’s “booklist” post is a little out of the ordinary. I am posting no list. Rather, a question. If it were up to you to contribute one or two books to the rebuilding of a world that had lost all, which would it be? What truth, what idea or story is so pivotal to who we are as a human race that you would be willing to eat its words in order to pass them on?

I would like to make one stipulation in order to keep things interesting. I know that most of us would want to be sure the Scriptures would carry on. However, if you choose to memorize Scripture, will you be so kind as to specify a book? One of the Gospels, perhaps, or the book of Proverbs, et al…

I listened to Fahrenheit 451 on audio, mostly on a trail run I did a few weeks back. The finish wrecked me and left me sobbing on the trail. There has been a monstrous battle, and our outcasts are now walking back toward the smoking remains of the city to begin the long work of redemption. Our protagonist, Montag, formerly a book-burner, has told the group earlier that he can contribute most of the book of Ecclesiastes and parts of Revelation. As he begins to search within himself for words appropriate to this hour, he lands on these. May they inspire you…

To every thing there is a season…
A time to break down and a time to build up
A time to keep silence and a time to speak…

And on either side of the river was there a tree of life which bore twelve manner of fruits and yielded her fruit every month. And the leaves of the trees were for the healing of the nations….

Stained Glass Hearts

Supernatural grandeur expands our soul and helps us throughout the day to live not in glass-breaking tension but in tiptoe perspective. It’s the place where, in our “upward leap of the heart,” we see beyond the fray to the Father who does all things well.  ~Patsy Clairmont

Diminutive dynamo. Teller of tales. Wearer of audacious designer boots, including at least one pair in red. She who can captivate a whole stadium full of women and keep them breathless, on the edge of their seats. All are apt descriptions of Patsy Clairmont.

But it’s only part of the story.

Contemplative. Poet. She who has a deep ache for beauty, transcendence, truth. Weaver of words who can turn a phrase with a delicate, fragile loveliness that pierces the heart. This too is Patsy Clairmont.

I’m known for my playful approach to life, which is fused within me; but to those who are closest to me, I’m also known for my need to pull on galoshes and wade into a thought. I guess when you’ve lived 60-plus years you collect a lot of heartache from this wind-whipped world that causes you to search the shadows of the forest. In my childhood I would have skipped through the woods oblivious to anything more than the path ahead, but today I’ve learned to check the secret places for the treasures of darkness.

Patsy’s new book, Stained Glass Hearts, is a sweet washing of the soul, with stories true and deep. With generous transparency, she takes us inside some of the more excruciating places in her life. She gives a courageous, vulnerable account of fear so paralyzing that it kept her housebound. Difficult to imagine if you have ever seen her on stage. But that is the beauty of the story. She shows us how, if we let Him, God will take the broken shards of our lives and solder them into luminous works of art.

…even though the stained glass pieces are artistically designed, they still have been broken, sanded, and soldered. They didn’t naturally fit the redemptive pattern without holy repairs. Also, stained glass art doesn’t begin to show its beauty or its inspiration or release its story until light touches the dark. The light transforms an otherwise subtle picture into a brilliant, dimensional experience.

Along with her stories, her experiences, her great loves and her great woes, Patsy introduces us to some of those who have shed light on her path. At the end of each chapter is a gallery in which she shares poems, paintings, songs, prayers, artistry of all sorts that have nourished her spirit. I implore you to google each of these as you read. A sumptuous feast for the soul.

Many of us have come to love the ones who have left lovely lines that fit inside us, that help us to see our world more grandly and ourselves more kindly.

Don’t all of us wish we had more wise voices in our lives? Those who deal with us winsomely and honestly, helping us find our true selves. Patsy is such a voice. As she walks with us through gardens and galleries, thunderstorms and snow, she gently points out things along the way. “Did you see that?” “Listen!” And our parched souls drink the liquid grace of the moment. And we are refreshed. And inspired. And emboldened.

Rescue us from small speculations. Enlarge our hearts. You alone, Lord, can attend to our desperation. Silence us with your peace. Comfort us with your tenderness. Mend us with your love. Amen.

Amen.

 

Booklist: On Writing

Sometimes writing is like magic. Ideas, words, come from some place outside of me and flow through my hands onto a page. I look at them in astonishment. As though someone else had written them. But most of the time, writing is work. Hard work. And talent and instinct only carry one so far.

There is a craft to writing. And if I want to tell stories that impact others, I must learn this craft. I have had the great good fortune to know some gifted writers personally. Their advice has been invaluable to me. But, I have also benefited from the teaching of authors who have generously put their thoughts about writing on paper for all of us. Here are some of my favorites.

On Writing by Stephen King I have this book in hard copy and on audio. I am listening to it right now for the 3rd or 4th time. In the first part of the book, King tells his story. In the second, he builds a “tool chest” for writers. Both parts are indispensable. Whenever I get whiny about not being able to find time or space to write, I remember King, after a long day of teaching, sitting in the utility room with his typewriter on his lap.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott Irreverent and funny, Anne Lamott is a pleasure to read. From the “shitty first draft” to publication, she is with you all the way. And every now and then she drops a passage like this:

Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve thought there was something noble and mysterious about writing, about the people who could do it well, who could create a world as if they were gods or sorcerers. All my life I’ve felt that there was something magical about people who could get into other people’s minds and skin, who could take people like me out of ourselves and then take us back to ourselves.

Me too.

A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver Do not be deceived. Poets are not the only writers who will benefit from the wisdom of this Pulitzer winning author. She has much to say about nourishing our creative sensibilities and will inspire and provoke you with her words. So many quotable phrases, but this is one of the best:

For poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry. Yes indeed.

The War of Art and Do The Work by Stephen Pressfield Each of these books provides an unapologetic kick in the pants and urges us to stop being willing victims of resistance, and get out there and create. The principles are applicable to artists of all types, as well as entrepreneurs, CEO’s, missionaries, anyone who has a call to do something in this world.

If you were meant to cure cancer or write a symphony or crack cold fusion and you don’t do it, you not only hurt yourself, even destroy yourself. You hurt your children. You hurt me…Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.

Elements of Style by William Strunk and E. B. White “Omit needless words.” It is one of the principles of composition in this much revered standard of grammar and good taste. It is also the practice of its authors. Succinct and elegant. Indispensable.

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron Subtitled “Creativity as a Spiritual Practice”, Cameron’s book guides us on a path of recovering our creative voice. Through “morning pages” and a number of other creative practices to help us know our true hearts, she helps unleash that which is buried within.

Steering the Craft and The Wave in the Mind by Ursula LeGuinn The first is a practical guide to various elements of writing like point of view or sound (“the slither and crunch of onomatopoeia” for instance :)). The second is a collection of essays and speeches on “the writer, the reader, and the imagination”.

To me a novel can be as beautiful as any symphony, as beautiful as the sea. As complete, true, real, large, complicated, confusing, deep, troubling, soul enlarging as the sea with its waves that break and tumble, its tides that rise and ebb.

Mystery and Manners by Flannery O’Connor A marvelous look inside the mind of one of the most perceptive and eloquent writers ever to tell the peculiar stories of the south. It is philosophy as much as anything. Like her stories. Good, wise, true.

Our age not only does not have a very sharp eye for the almost imperceptible intrusions of grace, it no longer has much feeling for the nature of the violences which precede and follow them.

Letters To A Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke Candid and intimate advice from one of my very favorite poets. On art, and beauty, and finding the poetry inside oneself.

Interlude….

This I have always known–that if I did not live my life immersed in the one activity which suits me, and which, to tell the truth, keeps me utterly happy and intrigued, I would come someday to bitter and mortal regret.
~Mary Oliver

For my friend Anne, like the Pulitzer prize winning Oliver, that activity is writing. It always has been. She has a keen ability to take pieces of her heart, wrap them in words, and give them to us. And when we read them, we do not see Anne. We see ourselves. And truth that has been hidden in us finds a way out through her words.

In her most recent book, Permission to Speak Freely, she gave many of us the courage to do likewise. To say the hard things. To share our stories. Her courage became our courage. And as a result, we too have given others “the gift of going second”. A safe place to say the things that matter.

Anne is currently in an in-between space in her life, both personally and professionally. An interlude. She is using this threshold moment to gather together some of her most significant art from the past fifteen years into an e-book she is calling Interlude. There will be essays, poems, photographs, and stories. It is a book you will want to own. And share with those you love.

And here you have a unique opportunity. You can be a patron of the arts. Of redeeming, healing, life-giving art. You can help make sure Anne eats for the next few months while she is putting this project together. And, for a gift of as little as $13, you will secure your own copy of the book when it is finished.

Mike and I chose to contribute because we believe in Anne. We believe in who she is and in the marvelous art she creates. Spend a bit of time with her and you will too.

Get a taste of Anne’s writing by visiting her BLOG. You can read all the details about Interlude HERE. In the meantime, have a look at this…

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