At the intersection of writing and life with the author of the Cameron Ballack mysteries

Monday, October 26, 2015

Faith and Fiction (The Promised Download)

As promised, here is the download of the discussion of "The Christian Imagination" from last night at Covenant Presbyterian Church in St. Louis.

Chris Smith, L.B. Graham, and I talk all things faith and fiction in forty-three minutes. Well, maybe not all things, but we cover a generous swath!

Enjoy the conversation here!

The Christian Imagination

I know it sounds strange to say we had a great literary bull session last night at church, but it's true. Not to mention back in the day of Christendom of yesteryear, many book discussions and author talks would take place in the chancels of churches and cathedrals, as the church used to be the center not only of spiritual life, but of cultural vitality as well.

Last night at Covenant Presbyterian Church in St. Louis, I had the privilege of being part of a two-man panel with my dear friend and fellow author L.B. Graham. In the discussion, led by Chris Smith, we explored the relationship between the Christian faith and literature, with our primary focus on fiction. 

Chris started the proceedings with an acknowledgement that some Christians have not delved into literature as they should, preferring to focus on persuading others of the truth of the Gospel. Leland Ryken, professor of literature at Wheaton College, notes with sadness several dismissive attitudes among some Christians about fiction does not communicate facts or useful information, it teaches error, it entertains only, is too emotional, is a waste of time, unrelated to life, and is immoral. Ryken dismantles these assertions in the course of his Windows to the World of course, but the sting can be felt in some quarters.

Chris countered that with C.S. Lewis' affirming acknowledgement of the good that fiction does in the Oxford don's An Experiment in Criticism. Our lives, Lewis says, demand windows to other worlds, and desire to live through the eyes of others, to build and feel empathy for others (which is a by-product of reading well).

The rest of the evening was Chris asking L.B. and I questions such as...
--> What has been your history as a reader? What have been some of your favorite novels and authors in your childhood and as an adult?
--> The Bible lays out a storyline of "creation, ruin, redemption, and restoration". How does the Bible as literature, combined with the Bible's storyline, help us read fiction?
--> How did you first develop an interest in writing?
--> What do you find challenging and pleasurable about writing?
--> What is your process? And give us a taste of your literary world: What characters and setting do you create?

This was followed by several questions posed from the congregation and we were done within an hour.

I won't go into detail on our responses here. For one, I've covered some of my own journey on this blog. Also, Covenant should be uploading the Mp3 of the panel discussion soon. When that happens, I'll post the link for your access and (hopefully!) enjoyment.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Hand Over Key

There's a reason why C.S. Lewis--for one--wrote his books by hand, relying on others to type them up for him.

Writing things out by hand, while a slower pace, forces you to think more critically about meaning, about the structure of thought, and about what is important in what you hear.

New research is coming in and--while I've been beating the drum that old-school methods are more in line with how our brains function--it's nice to see evidence-based confirmation of that.

The report is here. While I am no technology-bashing Luddite, we really need to see the sense of this report.

Digest it and give feedback...I'd love to know your thoughts.

Monday, October 5, 2015

It's Worth Investing in Chesterton

One time after he read an article entitled, "What's Wrong With the World?", the Christian thinker G.K. Chesterton decided a response was in order. Because he was G.K. Chesterton, he also decided a pithy response was in order. And so he penned the following:

"Dear Sir, 
     Regarding your article 'What's Wrong With the World?': I am. Yours truly, G.K. Chesterton"

One of the great writers of all time, the lay Catholic theologian and Christian apologist G.K. Chesterton was known for bulldogging his way through paradox, utilizing the delicious turn of phrase, and engaging in serious but accessible theology. If you haven't worked much into the Chesterton universe, it's worth a journey. His classics Orthodoxy (which depicted his own spiritual journey) and The Everlasting Man (his rebuttal of H.G. Wells The Outline of History which serves as Chesterton's depiction of the spiritual journey of humanity) are much revered by even the sharpest critics.

Perhaps you don't have time to read anything by Chesterton. You could also partake of his Father Brown mysteries, given that they are running on many PBS stations around the country. Mark Williams--who played Arthur Weasley in the Harry Potter film series--plays the lovable crime-solving Catholic cleric set in the fictional village of Kembleford. Producers Rachel Flowerday and Tashin Guner have done a fantastic job of creating fresh mysteries in the Chesterton tradition. Check your PBS stations for listings as Series 3 is approaching its completion, although the good news is they are filming for the next season!

Whether in books or on public television, Chesterton is worth a try. Invest in the Prince of Paradox if you haven't yet, or even if it's been a while.