Halfway

Tomorrow morning i go back to classes after a much-needed (and still too full) spring break. That means i am halfway through the semester. i am also perhaps halfway through a typesetting project which i hoped would be finished by now (every solution brings with it a new challenge; the final result will be magnificent, but i did not know books could require so much math). My girl and i are halfway through our first full school year together. i split my time between worrying about this year and worrying about high school. “Let Your steadfast love, O L-rd, be upon us, even as we hope in You.”

A little bit of catch-up before the downward slope of this school year begins:

That North Wind Manor fundraiser i announced in my last post, way back in December, was a far greater success than i imagined. i thought i would be happy to make as many as twenty little clothbound journals, but in the end it was more than twice that. Thirty-six were for donors; the remainder went to the Rabbit Room board as gifts for their annual retreat. My author texted me later to say he’d picked the Batman one. i knew he would. 🙂 (It occurs to me that when i say “my author,” i should clarify that i mean the one i work for, not the one i publish, and the fact that this needs clarification is still a little unreal.)

In my own schooling right now, i am studying Greek, which is finally coming together, and supposedly working on my own (English) fiction-writing. One of those two is getting more attention than the other, but if i’m to pass this semester’s mentoring i need to get writing. i committed to eight whole hours—that’s not even a lot, and that such a small goal is proving difficult is disheartening—and to revising my work with the help of others. The goal is trust. i am dragging my feet.

In Julie’s schooling, we’ve been reading some great novels and working on all the language arts stuff—Greek and Latin roots, English grammar, and basic composition. Our current book is Treasure Island. Neither of us have read it before, and i’m enjoying it.

Meanwhile, there’s so much that’s been happening with Weem Adrift that it’s daunting to begin talking about it. This January i filed for sole proprietorship and trademark, and that typesetting project is a steep learning curve on the way to my next release. i’m not yet ready to announce the title, but i’m both grateful and overwhelmed by all the opportunities this process gives me to learn—not only small business paperwork and typesetting, but so many aspects of production i skipped with the last two books. This is also an aspect of my trust plan this semester—trusting that i’ve got this, that i have the capacity to grow into this excellent work and to do excellence, that G-d is pleased with me and keeping a hold on me as i do things i’ve never done before, that i cannot fail with so many encouragers alongside me. At the end of this long process a new book will be alive in the world. Every time i do this it gets deeper and realer. Every time i’m more grateful for the grace i’ve been given.

i’m not quite ready for this week to end. Next week will, again, be too full. But i’m getting there.

Let Your steadfast love, O L-rd, be upon us, even as we hope in You.

Building something beautiful

i am a Weem Adrift. And, by some miracle of grace, i am no longer adrift. The Rabbit Room has been a home to me for the last five years—a solid, real home where i belong, a home that isn’t going anywhere, a community that, although it began online and much of our interaction throughout the year is online, is teaching me how to live an embodied life in the world. i’m not homeless anymore.

The Rabbit Room began as an experiment in community and over the last decade has grown to include a publishing house, a host of local events, an online store, and an annual four-day feast. Their staff labor all week, all year, in a 130-year-old farmhouse with falling-down ceilings, faulty plumbing, and no insulation, and in those hard circumstances they birth beauty into the world. i, a Weem Adrift, am a small sign of that beauty, and Weem Adrift Publishing is as well.

i have big hopes for 2019, and so does the Rabbit Room. One of my goals is to learn and grow as a publisher. i want to learn new bookbinding methods, and typesetting, and book promotion. One of the Rabbit Room’s goals is to turn that old falling-down farmhouse into a physical space that can support the good work they’re doing and the community they’re creating. i want to help them make that hope, that home, a reality.

Last week i learned two new bookbinding techniques—sewn boards binding, and cloth covers—and yesterday i had a marvelous idea. What if you loved the Rabbit Room, too, and what if i got to make a billion of these tiny cloth-covered journals as thank-you gifts?

So here’s my plan: Everyone who donates* at least $20 to the Rabbit Room’s North Wind Manor fund before the end of the year gets a journal. There are a lot of fabrics out there, and a lot of us. Let’s build something beautiful.


Click here for more about the Rabbit Room, and here to learn more about their building project.

*To claim your handmade journal, send your donation receipt to orders at weemadrift dot com or tag me on social media.

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.