Weem Adrift at the Rabbit Room

This last weekend was the Rabbit Room’s annual four-day feast—Hutchmoot. i brought a hundred books with for the book tables, and those that remained at the end are now in the Rabbit Room store. You can always order direct from the publisher, of course (click Weem Adrift in the menu above), but i would love for you to support the organization—ministry—family i love so much. Each purchase through their store supports their general fund, from which they birth all kinds of goodness into the world—including concerts, a podcast and blog, Hutchmoot, and over thirty books of their own. Click over to their storefront to find paperback and hardcover Jubilations, as well as paperback Budge-Nuzzards.

North Wind Manor Campaign:  As a glad inhabitant of the Rabbit Room, i am thrilled to join with them in putting down roots. The 130-year-old farmhouse that has been their base of operations for the last three years is in desperate need of renovation, and with that renovation is coming, finally, the embodied place for events and community they’ve been dreaming of since the Rabbit Room’s inception. To support this effort, prices at WeemAdrift.com are seeing a minor increase, and a corresponding portion of every purchase will go directly toward North Wind Manor’s renovations. For more on this campaign, click here or watch the video below.

Thank you, Rabbit Room, for being my place in the world.

Stuff i liked in 2017

Each year the Rabbit Room publishes a list of the contributors’ top 3 books, films, and music, and invites readers to share their favorites in the comments. i was planning to spend time in my review posts sifting through everything i read so as to be prepared for listing my top three. Well, i am not done sifting yet, but the “Stuff We Liked” post went up on Thursday, so i did my best to narrow things down. This resulted in a comment long enough to be a blog post all on its own, so i am posting it here also. i do intend to finish that series of review posts, though.


So i read 76 books last year and only hated two of them and the short list for the ones i loved best is basically seven plus one whole writer. Forewarning: i am going to break the rules. The editor can give me demerits if he wants (but seriously? Demerits for games? That’s crazy).

Books

JAMES DICKEY. GAH. i LOVE HIM. i read four of his poetry collections between June and December (Buckdancer’s Choice; Selected Poems; The Strength of Fields; Death, and the Day’s Light; and Buckdancer’s Choice again), and if anyone wants a Dickey education i am so ready to get you started. This guy is fascinating. i can’t stop reading him. His poetry runs the gamut from mythological to war memoir to seriously troubling to stories that i don’t know if, and i don’t know if anyone knows if, they’re true. Some of his “i” narrators are him, some are fictional, plus he was apparently a pathological liar in real life. A couple of weeks ago i was flipping through a book that had multiple drafts of one of my favorites of his poems and thought, i could read this guy for the rest of my life. So. One of my reading goals for this year is to read and reread enough of him that next year i can justify making a foray into reading commentary—his own or scholarly. And his son wrote what looks like a great memoir about his dad and their relationship, and i want to read that too, but before i get too far into thoughts about Dickey (even his own thoughts) i want to read his poetry on its own terms for a lot longer. i can only think of one other writer who’s ever just exploded my brain and taken over like this, and he’s the one who introduced me to Dickey.

Ha. Okay. i will try to move on from there. But get me started again, i dare you.

Du Iz Tak? Ken Priebe has be keeping me supplied with picture books for the last several months, and this one is without question my favorite. i didn’t know i was a language nerd until i started studying Hebrew in seminary a few years ago (although i probably should have known this all along). It turns out i love languages, and what really lights me up is the little epiphanies scattered throughout the learning process—idioms and etymology and the connections between everything. This book was maybe written just for me. It’s told in an entirely made-up language—a “nonsense” language, it first appears. But as i read it i started to pick up on vocabulary and even grammar in this bright-colored picture book and i. just. freaking. exploded. Remembering this not only makes me want to reread the book, but gets me revved up to get back to Hebrew.

This is the part where i start cheating, because this should be my third and last book, but instead it is my third and NOT last book.

TheForgottenBeastsofEldWatershipDownHenryandtheChalkDragonWinter’sTaleLesMisérablesEveryMomentHoly

Those are all in chronological order by date of completion.

The Forgotten Beasts of Eld and Watership Down were both recommended by Jeffrey Overstreet and i have yet to read a book he’s recommended and not be ruined by it. i cried on every single page of The Forgotten Beasts of Eld.

Henry and the Chalk Dragon. Jennifer Trafton is the avatar of the goddess Courage. i love her. This book, like everything she writes, makes me brave. There were times last spring when i would write “TIE YOUR SHOELACES” on my hand to get me though Akkadian tests. Also, Henry and i have started coloring in my books. We have colored in a lot of the illustrations in his book, and we have also started to illuminate the copy of Four Quartets that lives in my purse. For days after reading Henry all i could think of was color. From Henry’s imagination and woes to the adult characters’ arcs to the conflict with Oscar to the DRAGON! to Jade the Bard to the prose itself, there is literally nothing about this book that isn’t perfect.

Winter’s Tale and Les Mis were both assignments from my Patronus and i loved them so much. i loved the fact of them and the assignment of them and the reading of them. Winter’s Tale is a wildly, magically, quietly hilarious dream of a thing and i have never read anything like it. Plus, it has Barnabas Bead references in it and Pete didn’t even do all of them on purpose. Les Mis—i am still not over Gavroche and his mômes. That whole book just gutted me in the best way.

Finally: EVERY MOMENT HOLY. i can’t believe i know people who make art like this.

Film

i didn’t track movies and music the way i did books, so that gives you a reprieve from further enthusiastic exhaustions. But i love that Pete mentioned mother! because oh my gosh, that movie completely exhilarated me.

100% the best thing this year: The Wingfeather Saga: A Crow for the Carriage. This thing exists. Oh my word. It exists, and it is beautiful. i might cry just thinking of it. i’m so, so unbearably proud of that team.

i’m not going to bother with ranking the rest of these, but: La La Land. i saw that one four times in the theater. i had to fight for it—my first viewing and my second were completely different experiences and i’m so glad i went back.

Others: Jeffrey Overstreet came out this summer for a film seminar at our church library, and i followed that up with a film discussion series, and it was a blast. So hard to pick favorites out of that bunch, but i completely loved The Fits. Also, Paterson. Also, Babette’s Feast. (We also watched Timbuktu and La La Land, plus The Secret of Kells, which i’d already seen.)

i’m with Pete on War for the Planet of the Apes also, but the film series selections were so good that i think that one has to be an honorable mention.

Music

Thankfully for you i listened to very little new music (as is typical for me), so:

Scott Mulvahill is my favorite new thing to happen to music, period. i have spun the five songs on his EP for hours straight.

Psallos’ album Hebrews is so crazy awesome. i’ve never heard anything like it. The whole book of Hebrews, straight through, as a community theater production with a full Broadway orchestra. What the heck.

In other news, i am still spinning The Burning Edge of Andrew Peterson.

Finals, finally

This morning i intended to wake at 6:30 (and be coiffied and preened), spend time with Scripture and prayer and coffee after showering, and then dive into writing and reading. Instead, i hit snooze twice, made tea instead of coffee, and at 9:am, i am just about to begin today’s work. i have a whole book to read and internalize before the end of the week, when i hope to test out of one seminary class. Classes begin next Monday. i feel overwhelmed, and i know i did this to myself.

But in the mail this morning was my Molehill and a note from a Rabbit. That Molehill moved me to intercession, and the Rabbit-note moved me to tears and gave me the courage i needed to finally open an envelope i received before Christmas. i feared it—it lurked in the corner of my mind and whispered failure to me. It was the final exam for the class that broke me last semester. But after that note, i went to it. i held it in my hands. i poked my finger under the flap and tore it, then slipped the blue book from the envelope.

When i saw the grade, i laughed. When i saw the note at the end of my essay, i laughed again.

Then, a month and a half after the end of my first semester, i checked my grades online: An A in each class.

Grace. Hope. Resurrection.

Two new endeavors, both slightly terrifying

i haven’t done a great deal of writing lately—maybe i haven’t done any since that essay; i can’t remember for sure. But i have been reading, and reading, and reading. The Princess and the Goblin, The Princess and CurdieThe Warden and the Wolf King (and Pembrick’s Creaturepedia!), A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, Smoke on the Mountain, Peace Like a River, The Oracle of Philadelphia (and The Timely Arrival of Barnanabas Bead again, and the Budge-Nuzzard again), My Bright Abyss (although i am not sure i will finish it), King Lesserlight’s Crown, The Best of H.P. LovecraftGilead, Roverandom. And still somehow i have time for Facebook and other forms of time-wasting; clearly, i need more books. (Thankfully, there’s the Rabbit Room for that.)

That last one, Roverandom, i just read this week in preparation for one of the titular terrifying new things i’m attempting this summer: Story Camp.

i run our church’s library, and this year i am finally making good on my years-old desire to organize a summer reading program. Somehow—because i am crazy like this—i decided that this would also be a great summer to have weekly read-alouds in the library (The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic), host a Skype chat with an author (Jennifer Trafton of Mount Majestic fame), and spend all July encouraging library patrons to write their own stories. This will take the form of Camp Nano-style write-ins for teens and adults, but for kids, i’m running a week-long program i’m calling Story Camp, where the kids and i will play storytelling games, read J.R.R. Tolkien’s children’s story Roverandom together, use Roverandom as a jumping-off place for discussions on how to wrangle story elements like character, plot, description, setting, and theme, and then spend time daily writing our own books. i am really excited about this! And also fairly terrified, as i have never done such a thing as a) teach writing, b) teach elementary-schoolers, or c) run a week-long library program of any sort. But the planning is going well, and i will have a helper at least three of the five days, and i think it’s going to be awesome.

The other thing i’m doing this summer, also writing-related, starts on Monday. i’m taking an online writing class taught by Jonathan Rogers, acclaimed thinker of thoughts and author of the middle-grade Wilderking Trilogy, which combines meaning, action, and the best use of setting and written accents i’ve seen in awhile. He says the class, which is titled “Writing Close to the Earth,” could alternately be titled “Writing More Like Flannery O’Connor,” whom he has written a book about, and i am ashamed to say that i have never read any of her stories (although i have heard enough about them that i can pretend i have a grasp of her style). That class will require weekly writing—essays, and sentence exercises, which i am really excited about. i have already done the first week’s reading—i say that i have started early because this summer’s busyness requires me to work ahead while i can in anticipation of weeks when i’ll have less time for homework, but really i’m just a big nerd and i can’t wait to discuss the reading with other students and have JR tell me why my sentences are bad.

Last night, though, i had a hard time falling asleep because it occurs to me that if i am running write-ins this July, it really would behoove me to actually be writing some narrative fiction while encouraging others to do so. And not only am i going to have a lot of homework to do, plus Story Camp (which occurs during my class as well as during July’s write-ins)—i have no idea what to write about.

Sometimes i do wonder if i have already had all of my good ideas.

But aside from that pervasive nonsense fear (and the more realistic what-have-i-gotten-myself-into trepidation)—i am really excited about this summer.

Feathers and Talons

About a week and a half ago, i submitted an essay to the Rabbit Room. i was grateful to have had the opportunity to write that essay, and wanted to share it with the author of the books that inspired it. If he chose to share it with his community, i would be thrilled, but i had no expectations. Meanwhile, i knew that i was sending the essay to them at the very last minute if i wanted it to be read, much less published, before Kickstarter backers began reading the fourth book. i had gotten the public release date mixed up with the Kickstarter release, and so instead of sending them that essay a month or more before readers had a chance to begin finishing the series, i sent it to them in the middle of pallets and pallets of books arriving at their office. This week Andrew is signing multiple thousands of books, which are being sent to over two thousand readers. There’s no reason to expect them even to check their email during all this, although of course i must assume that they have. Whenever Andrew sees it, i hope he is blessed by my interactions with his story—whether the essay is deemed appropriate for the Rabbit Room or not. And whatever happens, i am grateful.

Today AP posted that their friendly neighborhood mailman was off with the second truckload of Kickstarter shipments, so regardless of the status of that submission, it’s time to release my essay into the wild.

Continue reading “Feathers and Talons”

Artham must die

::SPOILER WARNING:: If you’ve not read the first three Wingfeather Saga books, please ignore this post. Instead, go buy the books!

Andrew Peterson’s fourth and final Wingfeather book is due out on July 22, and for Kickstarter supporters, the delivery date is even sooner—perhaps next week! While i’ve been busy working on a more serious look at themes of brokenness and New Creation innocence in Peet the Sock Man’s character arc, that work is now finished and submitted, allowing me time before the book is released to make a few predictions and speculations about what might happen in the last installment of this beautiful YA fantasy series.

Continue reading “Artham must die”

On and on and on

Andrew Peterson and his wonderful little family sang this song in an online concert last night, and partway through the song something hit me that has never occurred to me before, despite my knowledge that the new earth that we’ll live in forever isn’t just limbo but life, not some ethereal harp-playing noplace, but a real, REAL, fully-redeemed physical place.

Jonathan and i were talking earlier yesterday about getting older and i said, “i’m so behind.” He nodded and said he feels that way himself sometimes. We’re in our mid-thirties, and he’s in school, and i’m looking to start school, and we’re only just sort of getting an idea of what we’re for, and meanwhile guys like AP are manhandling multiple careers with aplomb, having known who they were from the time they were 20 or younger.

But halfway through this song, these lines (which they’d already sung several times) spoke to me:

And it hurts so bad
but it’s so good to be young
And i don’t want to go back
i just want to go on and on and on
So don’t lose heart
Though your body’s wasting away
Your soul is not
It’s being remade
So don’t lose heart
Don’t lose heart
Your body will rise and never decay
Day by day by day

And it hit me: i WILL go on and on and on.

i think what we do in this life matters immensely, but:

All the stories i don’t get around to telling while in this old body will still be written. The difference is only in who gets a chance to read them (and what measure of grace and what manner of mystery inform my storytelling).

And that does matter—immensely—but there is still hope that who i am will remain; what He’s calling me to do does not end in my death; and i will have eternity to tell His stories. On and on and on.

That gives me a very different motivation to get on with it, and freedom to face the next two thirds of my life with eagerness to write, and without anxiety over whether i’ve done enough.

Throwing myself down stairs

i have been stalking Pete Peterson lately.

This started with reading his brother Andrew’s Wingfeather Saga to my husband while we drove back and forth between Colorado and Indiana this winter. That led to listening to Andrew’s music, then to listening to more music by friends of theirs, then reading articles on their website, The Rabbit Room. i bought Pete’s historical fiction series and Jonathan and i are reading them together. i discovered, quite by accident, a piece of brilliantly nonsensical blogfiction that Pete wrote back in 2005-2006 (if i have already spoken to you about this and you have not gone on to read it, shame; it is most indibnible). So one thing led to another, and now i am quite unapologetically stalking Pete Peterson, fangirl-style, on the internet.

Lately that stalking has taken the form of calling up the Rabbit Room archives, looking for anything Pete’s written, and discovering an old narrative that has long since come to a conclusion, but was clearly a struggle for him over the course of several years. As i read, i am being drawn into an epic battle between a man’s heart and his seemingly empty prospects for marriage and publication and hope (oh, treacherous hope!) and answers. Although i am reading these things long after they have been resolved, the emotions he expresses in his very honest posts about this struggle are much too familiar. In the reading, i am transported—to his past, to my past, to my present, and to my own fear of and need for hope. i am just now realizing that this path is leading me somewhere. Somewhere i want to go, but shrink from all the same.

There seems to be a strange sort of convergence happening. i fear a lobidious syzygy. And the result of this is that i, like Pete did over five years ago, must throw myself headlong down the stairs and pray that G-d will catch me, even as i fear that He will not and i will break my neck in the fall. Out of his past, Pete urges me toward my future. i may break my neck and lie on the stairs gasping paralyzed in shuddering pain. But throw myself down i must, and trust that G-d will remake me, pleased by my self-abandonment as well as my acceptance of who He made, and is making, me to be.

i am returning to school.