What then shall we write? Truth, beauty and love

[author's note: Hello! While you're here, I have a new (February 2016) novel out from Gollancz. It's the start of a portal fantasy that's getting some excellent reviews, so if that's the sort of thing that interests you, click through to the Down Station page for more information.]

 

Yet again I get to inflict on you my Greenbelt talk – this year I tried to move on to more constructive comment on how to talk about faith and the faithful in the context of being a writer of fiction. Enjoy.

This essay is published under a Creative Commons licence: usual rules apply, and comments welcome.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 England & Wales License.

 

 

What then shall we write? Truth, Beauty and Love – A Greenbelt 2015 talk by Simon Morden

 

Originally, this talk was going to be a relatively straight-forward discussion on how best to put matters of faith into our stories, without compromising either our faith, or our story. Things, inevitably, got complicated as I started to think more deeply as to why this discussion was even necessary.

To me, it’s self-evident that my job as the story teller, is to make the story as real to my audience as I can. Anything that detracts from that is something that I need to avoid doing.

In my stories, I often describe lives that have religion front-and-centre, for this simple reason: people sometimes do. By ignoring or downplaying the importance of faith in their thinking, their practices and their interactions – good and ill, warts and all – they’re not fully rounded characters and they’re less believable. That’s it. That’s why. I do it because it’s better writing.

There is, however, a belief – I think it’s probably a widespread belief in certain sections of the wider church – that there is a conspiracy within the media and arts against religion in general, and Christianity in particular. To illustrate this, I’m going to quote a comment which was left on Mike Duran’s excellent blog, deCOMPOSE, by someone attached to Lion books in the UK. This is it:

“Lion Hudson (Oxford, England) represents the Baker Publishing Group in the UK, where there is considerable resistance to ANY religious element in a novel in the ABA (general) sector”

I’m going to unpack the jargon and spell it out baldly. We have, in order, a representative of the UK’s major independent publisher of Christian fiction, who also represent the Baker Publishing Group, one of the major US publishers of Christian fiction, leaving a comment on a US-based Christian arts blog, to the effect that secular UK publishers will universally put up ‘considerable resistance’ to ANY (note the capitals) religious element in a novel.

That it is impossible to write about things of God within the secular publishing industry, is what the representative of Lion Hudson meant. That if you put faith-stuff in your book, that will be the primary reason for its rejection. That secular publishers have their own anti-God agenda. That if we do not write to that agenda, if we mention God or Jesus or Christianity or Christians in anything but disparaging terms, there is no chance of our work being published.

In trying to understand that argument, we have to consider where we come from and what we’re trying to do.

All writers have influences. They are a huge, mixed bag of everything you have ever read, seen, tasted, touched, felt, heard. They are what you have done to yourself, what you have done to others, what you have had done to you. They are all important, because you hated them, because you loved them, or because they are simply the water you swim in.

You cannot divide things into neat boxes, and any attempt to do so is doomed to failure. Some influences will be consciously more important than others, and some will be unconsciously more important. All I can say at this point, is that as an artist, ‘know thyself’ is a maxim worth considering.

So, to take a broad-brush, you have artistic, literary influences. You have all the books you have ever read and ever enjoyed. You have hundreds of years of story-telling, spanning all the cultures of the world. You have your Christian cultural influences, that are dependent on your own faith tradition, the hymns and songs that you sing, the governance of your congregation, the relative importance of preaching and sacraments, personal piety and social action. Even the quality of the post-service tea. As a writer, you probably want to join hands, left and right, with all your influences and take them with you on your writing journey. But what if you find them pulling you in different directions?

Your literary influences, whether they’re English Regency novels, 18th century Russian literature, American noir, or 80s cyberpunk, will tell you things: that you should write like this, you should tell your story like this, your characters should be like this. Your Christian influences, will give you other, sometimes contradictory, advice: you should write like this, your story should be about this, your characters should do this.

And as far as you can see, steering a middle course, keeping tight hold of both, seems to you to be the best bet. Except, you end up between that rock and a hard place, of having a novel that is simply unplaceable. Which then leads you on to this position: if I don’t stay true to the teachings of my faith, I am a hypocrite, but if I do, I’ll never get published.

To sum up these competing stresses: that story you’re trying to place is too worldly for a Christian publisher, and too Godly for a secular one.

The only way to break the Gordian knot is to decide one of three things: one, forget about writing about Christians, or having matters of faith central to the plot, because secular publishers won’t look at your work. Two, tailor your work within of the strictures of Christian publishing. Or even three, you cannot reconcile these competing demands, and you must therefore give up your dream of being a writer.

I want to show you that there is another way.

Not because you need to value one set of influences over the other, or try and hold both equally in some sort of creative tension, but because you are attempting to choose in a false dilemma. And it’s a dilemma which is deliberately propagated by certain sections of the Church and the Christian fiction industry who are pushing a ‘persecution and purity’ agenda.

Certainly, if we are writing solely for ourselves and between ourselves, then how we are viewed outside of the Church is possibly a moot point. Whatever else, our internal dialogue is important, as it is within any distinct sub-culture, whether that is a particular branch of science, or medical ethics, or within a political party. This talk is, in places, part of that internal dialogue, of me trying to persuade you of the rightness of my opinion, without having to necessarily worry about the viewpoint of an atheist reader, writer or publisher.

There always comes a point, however, when the internal debate must, if it is to have any relevance, break outside the narrow confines of the sub-culture and engage with the wider society. Some discussions on, for example, artificial intelligence within the robotics community, or end-of-life care by medical practitioners, are actually too important to be left to a few interested parties. That Christian fiction is largely irrelevant outside its immediate constituency is not, I think, a controversial statement. This is not to say that good works of fiction cannot arise from within the Christian fiction industry, but deliberately limiting the creativity of writers is not a base from which to build.

I was having lunch with my agent last month (he also happens to be AL Kennedy’s agent too), and I told him about this belief held about publishing, and he said that he’d not heard of any such thing in thirty years of being an agent. What he went on to say was that what secular publishers are objecting to is bad writing, and not the presence of religion.

I didn’t have enough time or energy to compile a statistical analysis of all the fiction published by the Big 5/6 and rank them for their inclusiveness of religion – I was too busy writing books, which seems to take up most of my time. What you’re going to get instead is a data point.

I have never, ever, been asked by any UK publisher to tone down, diminish or otherwise remove any single religious element in any of my books.

“Ah, but what if you had?” you ask. Well, I haven’t, but if I had, I’d consider it along with any of the other editorial suggestions that make up the give and take of the editorial process. Because I’m not perfect, and the thing about editing a book is to make it better, not worse – kill your darlings and all that – I refuse to throw a wobbly because a trusted reader is telling me “Simon, this bit just doesn’t work.”

 

 

So, after that lengthy preamble, I’m going to introduce you to three books that I consider exemplars of good fiction that also deal with matters of faith. They have Christian characters. They discuss theology. They illuminate Christian life. They are all written by award-winning authors: in two cases, the novels themselves were multiply award-winning, in the third, the author’s adaptation of his novel won him an Oscar. They were or are still published by mainstream, secular publishing houses, wherever they’ve been published. The mere fact that they exist at all questions the existence of any kind of systematic conspiracy against faith in fiction. Their enduring popularity and the high esteem in which they’re held hopefully slays the idea – in your minds, at least.

My three books, in order of age, are The Exorcist, by William Peter Blatty, The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell, and Gilead by Marilynne Robinson.

It’s difficult to judge your audience, but I’m guessing that folk sat in this tent are most likely to have read Gilead, a few might have read The Sparrow, and I’m going to be pleasantly surprised if anyone else but me has read The Exorcist*. But I’m going to treat them all equally.

Marilynne Robinson has written a grand total of four novels. The first, Housekeeping, was published in 1980, and twenty-four years later, came Gilead. I’d call her a lightweight, in that I’ve had seven novels, a novella and two short story collections published since 2002: however, let’s just list her achievements:

Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award for best first novel, Pulitzer Prize for Fiction shortlist, Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction twice ,National Book Award finalist, National Book Award for Nonfiction shortlist, Ambassador Book Award, Los Angeles Times Book Prize for fiction, Orange Prize for Fiction, Man Booker International Prize nominee twice, Park Kyong-ni Prize, PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay, University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Religion, Honorary Doctorate of Letters from Brown University, and the National Humanities Medal for “grace and intelligence in writing”.

So, not a lightweight after all. Even if you consider her output sparse, and not exactly your cup of tea, it would take a very stern critic to suggest that she wasn’t supremely talented, and the sort of writer we could all learn from.

All four of her novels have been published in the US by the Macmillan imprint, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, and in the UK by Faber and Faber, and Virago, now part of Hachette.

Gilead is the last letter of a dying minister, John Ames, to his young son, who will, along with his mother, be left alone in the world when Ames dies. The format of the novel is necessarily epistolary, and quite non-linear: Ames’ remembrances happen naturally, dwelling at times on his father and grandfather, and on his previous marriage which ended in the death of both his wife and baby in childbirth. His unexpected second marriage to Lila is a source of wonder to him: indeed much of the beauty of the narrative comes from the joy and bittersweet regret with which Ames describes his past experiences and the parochial world around him.

I am not normally a reader of what you would call ‘literature’, in that there are too few giant fighting robots or women in improbable armour, and I do like a book where something actually happens. However, the notion that ‘nothing happens’ in Gilead isn’t the case. Ames is dying. He’s a much older man, married to a much younger woman, and his thoughts continually turn to what’s going to happen to his widow and his son.

Enter Jack Boughton, the wayward son of his closest friend, the Rev Boughton, who returns to Gilead – the town in which the novel is set – after leaving in disgrace some twenty years before. The growing understanding between Jack and Lila troubles Ames, and he tries to lay the seeds of distrust between the pair that will last after he is gone. The success or otherwise of his manoeuvrings provides the story with its narrative drive.

The real world tribulations of Ames aren’t the main show, though. Gilead is a book about theology, and specifically Calvinist theology, and how that theology is lived out in the lives of Ames, his father and his grandfather. If that sounds a little unlikely, you’d be right. But Robinson has talked about the importance of Calvin’s Institutes to both her own theology, and her aesthetic outlook, and that comes through in the way she writes, and what she writes about.

Ames’ grandfather was active in the underground ‘railroad’ during the American Civil War, smuggling slaves out of the Confederacy and into the Union. He was a warrior, who not only took up arms himself, but preached the need to fight to his congregation. In contrast and as a reaction, Ames’ father was a pacifist, and a literalist to the point of being a Holy Fool. He would give generously to everyone in need, and in the process impoverish his own family almost to destitution. Against this background, Ames himself is almost Job-like in his acceptance of his past fate and future uncertainties. It is not that he is not accepting of death, rather that he loves life more.

The typical presentation of Puritans and puritanism in print and film is one of joyless, sexless folk, terrified of sin and unhealthily slavish in their adherence to their religious beliefs. Perhaps that has been true in parts, but Robinson deliberately sets out to redeem the view of Calvin and his writings by presenting three different, vibrant followers of those teachings. How well you think she’s done is left as an exercise for the reader, but in terms of the craft of writing, she shows a significant amount of chutzpah in not only doing it, but doing it well.

So this is the first point I’d like bring to the fore and place in front of you. Gilead is not only a well-written, well-received novel that has won both major awards and a place in people’s hearts – it is a novel that deals with complex and competing theologies without compromise. It tells the truth about relationships, both between people, and between those people and God.

You cannot help but realise that Ames is a decent man struggling with some very serious issues. This tells, for all its charm and homeliness, a difficult story in which there are no easy solutions. Truth, in fiction, is an almost unbearably terrible weapon. That is why we are too often scared of it. We look away, rather than stare into our own dark hearts. But if anyone is going to tell the truth of the Christian life, it ought to be us, and we will gain nothing by telling lies.

 

To move on to the second book, The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. Russell has written six novels: The Sparrow was her first, published in 1996, by Villard, an imprint of Random House, and in the UK by Black Swan, also an imprint of Random House. The Sparrow won the James Tiptree, Jr. Award, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, the British Science Fiction Association Award for best novel, the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer and the Kurd Laßwitz Award. So again, like Gilead, The Sparrow is a critically-acclaimed novel which brought its author great deal of success, despite, you would argue – certainly the commenter from Lion would – that it deals almost entirely with Judeo-Christian theology and practice within the setting of First Contact with aliens.

It’s 2019, and a much-diminished SETI programme finally picks up the signals it was built for: not only are the signals recognisably alien, they are also recognisably music. In haste, and in secret, the Jesuits organise a mission to visit the nearby star-system of Alpha Centauri, more or less bankrupting themselves in the process. Four decades later, the sole survivor of the mission, Father Emilio Sandoz, returns: he is emotionally and physically shattered by his experiences, and his faith is, not exactly in ruins, but he now rages against the God who he believes sent him on his journey, knowing full well what awaited him there.

Russell digs deep into her own background of anthropology to construct the world and society of Rakhat, and as a cradle Catholic turned atheist turned Jewish convert for her human characters’ motivations. Rakhat is home not to one, but two, intelligent species – the much more populous Runa, who form close-knit tribal agrarian tribes, and the rarer sophisticated city-dwelling Jana’ata.

The Jesuit mission – consisting of Sandoz, two other priests, a lay Catholic husband and wife scientist and doctor, Sofia, a Jewish artificial intelligence expert, and one of the SETI technicians – meet the Runa first, and lives with them, exploring the world around them. Their contact with the Jana’ata is made through a merchant who trades with the Runa, and who is eventually persuaded to take some of the team to the Jana’ata city.

The humans make, inevitably, one simple mistake. And it’s not even a mistake. It’s simply an aspect of our culture that the Runa adopt – and that’s when the true nature of the relationship between the vegetarian Runa and the carnivorous Jana’ata becomes horribly apparent for the first time. Rakhat is not meant to be Eden, but what follows is terrible: Sandoz’s transcendent joy at the success of the mission is crushed in stages by an inevitable series of decisions and misunderstandings until he is alone and reduced to nothing more than a sex slave in the dungeons of one of the city’s elite – the same acclaimed poet and singer whose songs, now translatable as rape pornography in ballad form, drew Sandoz there in the first place.

The Sparrow is a book where theodicy is front and centre: the problem of the presence of pain and evil in a worldview that also claims an omnipotent and benevolent God. The structure of the story – alternating chapters between Sandoz then, and Sandoz now, provides stark contrast for the reader. You know, almost from the outset, that the mission has gone tragically wrong. The reason why is gradually revealed as Sandoz is interviewed by his superiors, in what is necessarily a theological as well as a historical interrogation.

Science fiction deals with ‘what ifs’, and a First Contact situation is one of the classic ‘what ifs’ of the genre. But The Sparrow owes more to the missionary contact between medieval Catholicism and Japan and the New World than it does to more ‘set piece’ First Contact stories. Because Russell trained as an anthropologist, there is a deftness and an accuracy to the social interaction between the human crew members and the alien species that lifts the writing to the level where some critics have said ‘it’s too good to be science fiction’. Russell herself disagrees with that level of snobbishness, but it’s SF’s dirty little secret that some of what we write is better than what’s found in the big name literary novels.

So the second point I’d like to make here is that you owe it to yourself – and to your readers – to write well. Whatever genre you’re writing in, you need to practice the art of story telling. Your word choices, your dialogue, your pacing, your characterisation, your structure. Writing well is not just a question of using adverbs and adjectives, or not, as the case may be. It’s a question of making what you’re writing beautiful, even when you’re describing the most disturbing things.

I’m a great believer in the theory of narrative transport – that the best an author can do is to catch up the reader within the story, so that they actually experience the story for themselves. That is what I strive for, even if I often fail with my somewhat workmanlike prose. Beauty in your art – whether it’s writing or painting or sculpting or music or dance – is an end in itself, but when it serves the work, and elevates it rather than overwhelming it, it becomes a source of wonder and joy.

 

The third book I’d like to touch on is probably the most problematic of the three on my list. If you feel you might be traumatised by The Sparrow, I’m afraid The Exorcist is probably not going to be your thing. I’ve chosen it because if we are going to discuss the portrayal of the supernatural, of the struggle that is not of flesh and blood but of powers and principalities, I cannot think of a better book to do it with.

The Exorcist, by William Peter Blatty, was first published in 1971, in the US by Harper and Row (of Harper’s Bazar magazine fame), and in the UK by Corgi, an imprint of Transworld. Blatty went on to adapt his own novel for the 1973 film of the same name, winning an Oscar and a Golden Globe for Best Adapted Screenplay. Blatty has also won the Commonwealth Club Silver Medal for Literature, the Gabriel Award and American Film Festival Blue Ribbon, two Saturn Awards, The Horror Writers Association Lifetime Achievement Award, a further Golden Globe, Best Screenplay, and the Audie Award Solo Narration by the Author. The Mark Twain Society elected him a Knight of Mark Twain.

Blatty is the son of Lebanese immigrants, brought up dirt poor in New York in the 1930s by his mother after his father abandoned the family when he was aged three. Blatty attended a Jesuit High School, then university on a scholarship. He remains a Roman Catholic.

The Exorcist is not the novel you anticipate it to be, if the only things you know about The Exorcist is it’s a horror film where heads turn round until they face backwards, and pea soup. The Exorcist is a detective story, both with an actual detective, the Jewish homicide cop Kinderman, and the medical detective, Father Damian Karras, who is a qualified psychiatrist. The bones of the story are this: a successful actress undergoing a messy and painful divorce starts to see her daughter manifest odd traits, which gradually escalate through possible poltergeist activity to extreme and disturbing self-destructive behaviours.

So there is a paradox at the heart of The Exorcist. Almost the entire book is devoted to finding an earthly cause to firstly, the death of a film director on the steps of the house, and secondly, as to what ails the child. Only when all other avenues have been explored and rejected, does Karras, acting as the child’s psychiatrist, accept that the child will best benefit from the rite of exorcism, and then only as an auto-suggestive medical procedure.

This rite is not without its own risks: Karras knows that exorcists are often severely psychologically damaged during the process, and that patients – believing they are possessed – will fight every step of the way. The bishop decides that Karras won’t be the one who performs the rite: he knows that Karras is suffering from major doubts over his own faith, following the death of his mother in less than the best of circumstances. Instead, he calls in Father Lankester Merrin, an aged Jesuit archaeologist, who has considerable experience with exorcism.

The actual exorcist – Merrin – appears in the first few pages, and the last few pages. And you, as the reader, are still not certain whether the girl is actually possessed, or whether Merrin believes it to be true. Kinderman, having exhausted his own investigations, knows that the child is somehow a killer, but is willing to step back and let the priests attempt a cure.

What we have is a horror story, a story which is, by any stretch of the imagination, strong meat. The disintegration and subsuming of the girl’s personality by her condition is difficult to read. Kinderman’s forensic unpicking of family secrets is just as brutally uncomfortable. Karras’s doubting is particularly troubling, because it mirrors our own doubts and fears. What makes this a great book, a great work of fiction, is this: love.

What do I mean by that? Love is possibly the oddest thing to praise a horror novel for. I’ve read lots of horror novels in my time – in my youth, they were often of the ‘creature feature’ variety, where rats, beetles, sharks, killer whales, worms, slugs, crabs, birds, bats – the whole panoply of nature – take it in turns to munch their way through an unsuspecting and largely defenceless population before the threat is, at least temporarily, halted.

Peter Benchley’s Jaws makes a fair stab at characterisation, but for the most part, the victims in all these – and many, many subsequent stories, both in books and films – are anonymous.

In contrast, the characters in The Exorcist exist within relationships. Chris loves her daughter Regan. Regan loves her mother. The housekeeping couple Willi and Karl are devoted to each other and Chris. Sharon, Chris’s personal assistant accepts demands placed on her far beyond a normal employer-employee contract. Chris relies on Sharon. Kinderman talks about his wife all the time, even as he offers genuine friendship to Karras. Karras and Father Dyer are close friends. Karras’s mother dies, and he is distraught. Chris’s relationship with Denning, despite the director being drunk a lot of the time, is one of deep, mutual affection. And these relationships, interconnected and complex, are what makes you care. Because otherwise, all you are is a spectator, with a ringside seat to the atrocities.

This last point is particularly difficult for me. There are books I’ve written which have a very high body count which, while I’m not ashamed of them, I’m aware I could have handled some scenes within them differently. I am trying to do better. And as a brief aside, I am entirely bemused by some Christians’ reactions to supernatural horror, because ours is a supernatural faith. In many respects, it is the genre that is most sympathetic to the Christian faith, and the easiest in which to write about it.

 

Because I’m an Anglican I’m going to reiterate the three points I’ve already teased out. The three points won’t mark out your work as specifically Christian – Russell wrote The Sparrow after she’d left Catholicism and before she converted to Judaism – but if you think about these three things while you write, you will be a better writer. And if you are a Christian, you will be better writer who is also a Christian. I can’t guarantee being a better writer will make you a better Christian – it might even be that not following the strictures of Christian fiction will end up with you treated with suspicion, ostracised, shunned or disfellowshipped. I apologise in advance.

Firstly then. We must tell the truth. Explicitly, we must tell the truth about the lives of the Christians we present in our stories. There is no such thing as an easy life. Faith can be as much a burden as a comfort. There is loss, and pain, and doubt, as well as revelations and visions and miracles. We ought to reject the flat, painted portrayal of Christians and instead give our readers a complex sculpture of character. Literally, warts and all.

However, we must also respect the truth of the lives of the non-Christians we write about – those of other faiths and none. Why should we be afraid to show that these are decent people, often kind, generous and caring, and often more kind, more generous and more caring than the Christian characters? When we write someone’s life down, it doesn’t matter that that someone is imaginary. If we want them to be real to the reader, they must be real to us. Which means they deserve to be treated truthfully. Not fairly. But truthfully.

A villain who is all evil is as unlikely as a hero who is all good. So we tell the truth about their lives, good and bad together. You have to remember that no one, not even the true sociopath, believes themselves to be anything but the hero of their own story. If you cannot ascribe credible motives and reasoning for what are morally questionable, or even reprehensible, thoughts and acts, then you are not truthfully telling the character’s story for them.

Secondly, we must concern ourselves with beauty. No one should have to read a poorly-constructed, badly-written story with terrible dialogue and paper-thin characters, unless you’ve ever had the misfortune to be a judge for a literary award. We should strive for perfection, all the while knowing that we will never get there. Some of the greatest works of art ever created, were works created by Christians, for Christians, celebrating the Christian faith. And as Christians, we have, by and large, forgotten how to do that, and instead are content with mediocrity and mere propaganda.

It’s one of the things that is critically important about Greenbelt as a Christian arts festival, that it celebrates, inspires and challenges us to make better art, and to be better artists. Robinson, Russell and Blatty are extraordinarily talented, but they are not somehow superhuman. Collectively, we should be telling stories that capture the attention of the Pulitzer Prize committee, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, or the judges of the Arthur C Clarke award. There is no reason why we cannot. There is no bar to writing about Christians and their lives, only to bad writing.

Thirdly, we must show love. Obviously, we should. But specifically to those we write about. We have to allow them to care, to form friendships and be passionate, even when, and specifically when, we don’t agree with them, or approve of them, or like them. To do otherwise is to be a capricious creator.

Ames and Boughton, Sandoz, Karras and Dyer and Merrin, are not interchangeable between these three stories, in some sort of cookie-cutter priest archetype character sort of way. Neither are the atheist characters of Andrew Ames and Jack Boughton, Chris and Sharon, or Sofia. The Christian characters are not paragons of virtue, they are people. The non-Christian characters are not there as examples of terrible human beings, nor are they presented as God-fodder and converted on the last page. They are all people, and they are all loved, because of, despite of, everything. They are not pawns in your hands, any more than I believe we are pawns in God’s. Allow them free will, to love who they can, and accept love in return. We have an example to follow.

 

I don’t know how important you feel creating fiction, and more specifically, creating fiction while believing in a Creator God, is. It’s something that each of us has to weigh up for ourselves. I maintain that we, as a society, as a civilisation, work on a fundamental level by the power of narrative. We are defined by the stories we tell ourselves, between ourselves, of ourselves, whether we do that as individuals, families, communities, nations, races or our whole species.

But I would always argue that since the best stories have universal appeal, a writer naturally seeks two things: to gain the widest possible audience for their work, and to strive to be the very best they can. This cuts across the artistic spectrum. No one I’ve met yet aspires to be unknown and mediocre.

I appreciate that’s quite a lot to live up to. What, hopefully, I have done is shown you that you can write about both faith and the faithful without compromise, that there is no bar to doing so except the quality of your writing, and that loving your creations unconditionally is not a weakness, but a strength. If we are serious about our storytelling, we need to bring all our craft and learning, our creativity and experience, our whole being, to bear on each and every word we lay down. Our stories are where we tell ourselves how to fight battles, slay dragons, rescue princesses and find true love. They are how we change the world.

 

 

 

 

* I was pleasantly surprised.