Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Stay Close to Your Mentors!

Jewish Children with their Teacher in Samarkan...Image via Wikipedia
Students from Samarkand. Photo from Russia. Free license.
Jean Purcell
Opine eStore and Book Cafe

Every writer has mentors. Yes, every writer, including anyone with no memory of encouragement at home, or an influential teacher, or other visible support for writing or for achievement. Every writer has mentors, and this includes mentors dead or alive who guide from their works that move and improve skills and designs.

It's important to stay close to all of these and to value them highly. Lillian R. Klein says in the Preface of From Deborah to Esther, "Any book stands on the shoulders of many sources...." (Fortress Press). So, to paraphrase Dr. Klein and others, "Every writer stands on the shoulders of mentors, whether personally present or present through their works." In fact, all of art shares this.

If you had encouragement at home, stay close to those memories. Someone believed that you could do anything you set your mind to do. For me, my parents had an enormous influence. They were not gushy. "I love you" was shown more than said. Yet, that means that "I love you" was said often. There was never the big build up of "self-esteem" but mainly a quiet, steady "being there" even through my adolescent argumentativeness. My mother once said to me, during my elementary school years, "I think you should be a lawyer; you would argue with a signpost if you could."

Later, she said, "I think you'll be a writer." I had been considering various career choices and I did not want to hear those words. A writer? "There is no way!" I thought; I took writing for granted. What could I do with writing?! Why would I consider it a choice? I seemed to have no choice where writing was concerned. It grabbed me, and I could not escape it, or figure out why I would choose to do it!!

A few female writers criticize men for having no confidence in them or in women in general. My dad was one of many exceptions. He was the greatest education-achievement encourager of my life. He did not focus on excelling with grades. He wanted me to learn, and only God knows all that my dad did to make sure I remained in college to complete those studies. My husband is my greatest encouragement these days. His confidence in me is priceless. My brothers through the years have also encouraged me, and one has mentored my interest in biblical studies.

There were also teachers who I felt rode me pretty hard about getting down to business regarding studies, yet each one in that way showed confidence in me, in public schools, college, and university. And my sixth grade teacher took time to phone my mother about a poem I wrote about a green bird that felt different.

If flesh and blood people are not on a writer's list of  mentors, there are people, living and dead, whose books, movies, dramas, or other creative works have been there! Authors, through their writing, have mentored my life, faith, and writing desires. The list is too long to place here in full. I have to get going soon. But readers know of my admiration for C. S. Lewis, and these days I  would still include Robert Frost, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Eudora Welty, to name just a few of many, as well as Sinclair Lewis (whose writing I focused on for an honors paper in college. No, I did not get the honors; I worked for extra credits through independent study approved so I could graduate on time! Those were called "honors courses." )

We need to stay close to our literary, journalistic, academic, and other mentors, to reread their works and replay in memory their positive influences on our better parts of character or skill. As we develop ways of staying close, particular to the changing people we are, the mentor-influences can continue to fertilize the development of whatever else we think or do.
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Friday, May 20, 2011

Tough Spots and Rising Tides

Christian Literatures 1Image by AHS Librarian via Flickr
A book marketing pro whom I respect sent an e-mail about guaranteed sales for small publishing houses and self-publishing authors. Immediately I wrote to inquire: Does this apply to Christian publishing? He replied quickly and reliably to say, in effect, "Sadly, no it does not. That is another case altogether."

Faith joined by family moral support and a committed and talented co-editor continue to lift my spirits and inspire me to keep going in the area of Christian writing and publishing, where success is measured differently.

My husband reminded me at one low point: "This boat may be about to rise." He referred to African Queen, a movie we had recently watched at home. In the story, just as the hero and heroine faced death in a boat paralyzed in an African marsh, heavy rains came and lifted their little boat, carrying it into the nearby sea. 

It is not only sunshine that nurtures us. The rain can lift our purpose in difficult times, to carry us into wider oceans of faith.  
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Friday, May 13, 2011

Mogama: Refugee Was His Name

street art 02Image by byronv2 via Flickr

In his own words: "A place of my own." Finally, to have a place of his own gave Mogama intense joy, and he recorded the day in his journal.

As a young man with his first teaching job about to begin and an apartment furnished, he had evidence of having moved out of poverty; the road had been the rare educational opportunities his poor parents sought for him and found, with the help of American missionaries. 

Yet, so quickly that it could hardly be taken in by Mogama, he lost his job when the school closed, his safety when gunfire rang out near the capital city, and  his life was threatened at the nose of a gun. He then lost his homeland, because attackers crossed borders under the leadership of a Liberian rebel who did not like Liberia's president. 

Danger, disruption, and disappointment are key parts of the too-frequent story of displaced people and refugees. War, more than natural disasters or disease, pushes out those who have no part in political or military action. Citizens seeking a better life are shoved aside by the whims and lusts for power of others. Rebels feel sure that their way is best, so they try to impose their way on everyone by disposing of governments.

Theirs is not a “popular uprising,” but a zealous, armed insistence.
Military action through guerrilla warfare is only one of many ways this insistence manifests itself. Pressures of economic, religious, political, and social nature can become as intimidating and fearful as anything.

In the name of “freedom,” innocents are put at risk, with no voice. In the name of “tolerance,” intolerance is shown. Pitting people against each other, insistence causes many to lose their places...or their lives.  

No place to call home.  That is the predicament of the refugee.

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