#BlogtownTuesday: Interview with Hopeful Patience

Continuing our stroll around #Blogtown, today we’re visiting with Michelle at Hopeful Patience. Like most of our #Blogtown friends, we haven’t met in person, but we’ve known each other online for a few years. As always, I’m asking 5 questions, and as today’s guest, Michelle is sharing her answers below.

How did your blog gets its name?

One day, I was describing to my brother that I was beginning to feel able to imagine and hope for something that wasn’t possible yet but might be possible someday. He called what I was describing “hopeful patience.” A few months later, I was creating my blog, and I found that that phrase encapsulated what I wanted my blog to be about.

What would you say is the defining characteristic of your blog?

This question follows nicely on my answer above–the goal of my blog is to practice hopeful patience myself, and, as much as I can, inspire others to wait hopefully in whatever struggle they find themselves in.

What’s your Favorite Thing about Blogging? Least Favorite?

I really love having an avenue to publish my writing and to share some of my ideas and encouragement with others. It gives me a concrete way to make writing part of my life. That’s important to me because I have always seen myself as a writer, but for many years I didn’t have any tangible way that I was acting out being a writer. The only negative part of blogging I can really think of is when I fall into wishing I had a wider audience.

You’re a member of Blogtown, a social blogging collaborative. How is blogging social for you?

Unlike other writing I might do that is more for myself, blogging is specifically a way to share what I’ve been pondering with others. I really like socializing through writing because it allows time to think carefully about what I want to say. I’m much more comfortable with writing than, for example, talking on the phone. It also means a lot to me to interact with people in meaningful ways online because most of my life is spent at home, and I don’t have a lot of opportunities to socialize in person (most of my in-person socializing is crammed in after church on Sundays).

Tell us 3 things we’d know about you if we’d grown up with you.

A. I was planning to become an author since before I can remember.

B. Vermont was my favorite place to visit during summers as a kid.

C. In early high school, I dreamed of attending Oxford University, studying the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, and becoming a professor.

Thank you, Michelle!

You can connect with Michelle at Hopeful Patience. See you in #Blogtown!

Who Has Known Heights

This poem has lingered in the reaches of my consciousness for decades. I don’t recall where I first read it, only that I shared it with my Dad, who understood the feeling it conveyed.

Who Has Known Heights

Who has known heights and depths shall not again
Know peace – not as the calm heart knows
Low, ivied walls; a garden close;
An though he tread the humble ways of men
He shall not speak the common tongue again.

Who has known heights shall bear forevermore
An incommunicable thing
That hurts his heart, as if a wing
Beat at the portal, challenging;
And yet – lured by the gleam his vision wore –
Who once has trodden stars seeks peace no more.

Mary Brent Whiteside

I remember how strongly I felt, reading this poem, how well it expressed my experience then. But now that I’ve found it and read it again, after these decades of life have washed over me, I can see that it is no longer all of my experience.

I do seek peace now.

The heights and depths are there, but they exist more in my inward thoughts. I have learned to guard them, and I have learned that sometimes weariness trumps artistic exuberance.

The memory of those heights tinges my quest for peace with guilt sometimes, and I believe that’s good. I don’t want to be a seeker of peace at any price. I want only to maintain the balance I hadn’t yet discovered in those urgent younger days.

Whether I will or no, I exist within limits. I reread books I’ve read dozens of times. I decide not to watch a film I know will make me cry. I accept the spiritual poetry of scrubbing dirty dishes in warm water in a home of my own.

I choose my quests more cautiously, remembering that final victory may elude me or, more likely, appear in ways and times that can’t be prophesied.

#BlogtownTuesday: Interview with Anna at The Brown Dress Project

In today’s edition of this #Blogtown tradition, we’ll be visiting with Anna at The Brown Dress Project. Anna is someone I know in real life, in part because she’s one of the co-authors of my story-telling devotional, Seven Holy Women, coming out this fall. As always on #BlogtownTuesday, I’m asking 5 questions. Here’s what Anna says!

How did your blog get its name?

The Brown Dress Project came from the life and work of St. Marcella of Rome (325-410). During her widowhood, she drew together other Christian widows and unmarried women into a collective who focused on living simply despite their wealth. They adopted a sort of proto-habit of plain brown linen or woolen gowns to mark their ascetic choices. I adopted the title to show that living one’s faith as a woman in any era is attainable.

What would you say is the defining characteristic of your blog?

The overall goal for my blog is to bring the stories of women saints into the broader conversation of the Orthodox Church. I want to help women identify with the broad expressions of our lived faith. Wherever a woman finds herself, at whatever age or station, there are saints who have walked that path before her. As a historian, I am fascinated with how the Church remembers the saints in a unique story-telling pattern called hagiography. How we tell the lives of the saints is as important as what we say about them. 

What’s your favorite thing about blogging? Least favorite?

My favorite aspect of blogging is being able to work out ideas in writing and finding connections between past and present. My least favorite thing is the writer’s perennial struggle to translate the ideas into text.

You’re a member of Blogtown, a social blogging collaborative. How is blogging social for you?

I thrive on feedback for my writing. It is like beacons along a rocky coast, pointing me to the good harbor of truth. I also enjoy hearing requests for specific saints’ stories or a thank you for highlighting an obscure saint. I have met and made more Orthodox friends that way through word of mouth than through regular social media.

Tell us 3 things we’d know about you if we’d grown up with you.

The Chronicles of Narnia were my bedtime stories with Dad from age 6 until 9. Mom read the Anne of Green Gables series to me in the morning before school. Thanks to my parents, I am a confirmed Anglophile and ruined for common literature. 

I began collecting hobbies from a young age. I was fascinated with baking, sewing, knitting, spinning yarn, growing gardens, etc. Not your average childhood in the Midwestern suburbs! I begged Dad to get a goat or chickens. He did build square foot garden boxes as a compromise. 

Ballet and dance in general were my main after school activities up through high school. I still love to dance, though more sedately, in historical English Country style, like Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. 

Thank you, Anna!

You can connect with Anna at The Brown Dress Project. See you in #Blogtown!

What is your earliest memory of writing?

Once upon a time, when I was little, I went outdoors on a summer afternoon. I walked down the long driveway, from the backdoor of our yellow house, past the garden and the swingset, toward the garage. As I walked, I heard my own voice inside my head, telling the story of what I was doing. I knew the story stretched back to my beginning, and that I was just noticing it, not beginning it. I knew the story was happening still, and that it would keep on happening, as long as I kept on telling it.

That is my first memory of writing. At the time, I was only 4 or 5 years old. I wouldn’t have called it “writing” then, but when I follow the ribbon of my words all the way back, that moment is their anchor

Next, I recall a day in 4th or 5th grade when I decided to write a detective story. I wrote the title, The Mystery of the Golden Bell, across the top of the page and began on my story, scrawling along in pencil until I reached the end of the paper. I started on the next sheet, wondering what would happen next. And then it happened – the revelatory moment when I realized that if I was going to write the story, I had to know what was going to happen in the story! Alas, I had no idea what happened in the story, so The Mystery of the Golden Bell remains unsolved.

I’m interested in the beginnings of things, so I asked some friends to share their earliest memory of writing. I find the responses fascinating (also cute, funny, and characteristic).

My friend Katherine’s first memory is oddly appropriate to her later life. She’s a published author of a series called Crime with the Classics. I love that her earliest writing memory involves a “trial” with her mother playing counsel for the defense.

In sixth grade we were assigned to write a short story (possibly from a prompt, I don’t remember). The teacher accused me of having copied my story from a women’s magazine. My mother successfully defended me from this charge. I remember nothing about my story except that the main character was named Betty.

Katherine

I was struck by how many writing memories are connected to teachers. It’s a good reminder that writing is social: the activity itself may be solitary, but what is written is a communication, and sometimes we need help from mentors and friends to launch it into the world.

I remember in the 3rd grade my teacher trying to encourage me to enter a story that I wrote for a class assignment to a state writing contest. I was so nervous and scared that I told her I couldn’t send it in. After much encouragement, I agreed to let her mail it in.

About 3 months later, my teacher called me up to her desk before going outside for recess. All the kids had gone outside. She handed me a large manila envelope. As I opened it, a 1st place ribbon fell into my lap. I pulled out a spiral bound book. It was the stories of all the top 5 winners.

I remember just sitting there shocked. My teacher had a huge smile on her face, and she showed me a box of books that I had won for our school.

I couldn’t believe that I went from being this kindergartener who struggled with English and who saw a special teacher to help with reading writing, to a 3rd grader who won a state writing competition. It still makes me smile and warms my heart thinking about it.

Nancy

My third grade teacher taught us how to write poetry and arranged to have several of us read our poems on a local radio station. That was a thrilling experience for me and inspired a lot of poetry writing in my school years. Some of my poems were published in obscure little anthologies of children’s poetry. Funny, I’m not sure I even remember how to write poetry now.

Elizabeth

In first grade, our teacher had us do little writing assignments. But I don’t remember what I wrote. What I remember is that she wrote a poem about me being an author. Definitely changed my life.

Laura

The 5th grade teacher would give us lists of spelling words to use in sentences. I made the sentences into a story.

The 6th grade teacher asked, “Have you ever heard the term ‘stream of consciousness’? That’s what you’re writing.”

Frederica

In addition to helping build good writers, good teachers make good teachers! Check out this memory!

[My first memory is of] Learning to write in Kindergarten. We had these 10×10 (?) Letter books with tactile glitter letters on the front (one book per letter). I also remember Phonics workbooks and spelling tests. 😂 Creative writing memories are mostly from 6th grade because I think we actually had creative writing time with my teacher. I teamed up with a classmate and we wrote a “scary” story that was shared at the end of the year writing celebration. This is one reason why I loved doing writers notebooks with my 6th graders when I taught ELA. Drop everything and write days. It was the first chance in school they were ever told to write whatever they wanted to write! For some it was a challenge and they needed prompts. For others, they thrived in being able to express their thoughts and ideas. Otherwise quiet or class clown kids let their creativity shine!

Irene

This next made me chuckle. It’s from one of our #Blogtown friends, Elzabeta at God Has Promised.

I wrote a series of interviews with Garfield the Cat. A lot of lasagna was spilled. I also wrote my own sequel to The Empire Strikes Back because George Lucas was taking too long.

Elzabeta

George Lucas was taking too long! 😀

Here’s another early writer with her eyes on Hollywood.

In second grade I wrote Charlie’s Angels FAN-FICTION on construction paper in crayon. I think. Now I’m starting to doubt my memory. I definitely wrote SOMETHING in crayon and folded the construction paper into a ‘book’.

Cynthia

There were so many stories shared that there isn’t room for all of them in this post, so I’ll close with this one, which I love because it resonates with my own, deep, early memories of STORY – the core of all meaning and beauty in my world.

Well, I remember in kindergarten, we were all writing stories about sea creatures–but I was incredibly frustrated, because my teacher wouldn’t let me write it down myself, instead insisting on taking my dictation. Certain other classmates with neater handwriting were allowed to write their own, and I felt it was a great injustice. (The story itself was about a sea urchin, which I liked because they were purple, and was quite inane.)

My first memory of storytelling, however, was before that, a collaboration between myself and a truly remarkable babysitter (also Orthodox). My backyard was transformed into a magical realm, with each landmark being given Anne of Green Gables-style names, and C. S. Lewis-like cosmological significance. My dolls were central characters, of course, and were joined by several more who were portrayed by her and by myself at various points in the story. Together, with the aid of my trusty slingshot, we worked our way through rising tension, the apocalypse, and even into the Age to Come. If I ever write a story that feels as beautiful and exciting as that one did to me then, and does still despite my forgetfulness of the particulars, I will be well-pleased.

Elizabeth

No thank you to the blog marketing tips

Dear Stranger,

If you are following my blog because you have a blog that’s going to increase my blog following, expand my brand, profitize my prose, et cetera and so forth, please do not trouble yourself.

Your cursory glance at my blog indicates that I am building a community of bloggers.

This is true.

We even have a hashtag. #bloginstead.

Also true.

But you missed something.

I’m building the community because I want the community. You know how you do something because you enjoy it, and then you find other people who enjoy it too, and you spend time together enjoying it?

That’s what I’m doing.

I’m not looking for quick tips on expanding my brand so that my viral blog will attract advertisers and enable me to quit my day job and subsist on sponsored posts.

Big nope on that.

Yes, I write books. Orthodox Christian children’s books, actually. I’m doubtful this is the target market your tips and tricks are intended to reach.

Yes, I will talk about my books on this blog. I like writing my books. I like having them published. I’ll never get over the enchantment of seeing them illustrated.

More than that, I like people to buy my books. I hope they read them till the covers fall off, that they find them again when they’re all grown up and hug them spontaneously for all the good childhood memories attached to them.

I market Orthodox books for a living, and I know for a daily fact that people can’t read a book if they don’t know it exists. I know the value of spreading the word and finding an audience and building a brand. All those things. But I see NO value in doing those things for their own sake.

I don’t want to lose the value of being a human person who likes to write, who enjoys talking to friends, and who wants to recapture the kind of internet space where that was, and could still be, possible.

Life is complicated. Intricate. Interwoven. I can’t separate my writing self from my author self, my community-seeking self from my book-promoting self. Not completely. There is one me, and all aspects of my life connect, one way or another. But I can decide what matters most and choose it every time I have the choice.

That’s what I’m doing here. And that’s why I won’t be following your “how to win big in online marketing” blog.

No, thank you.

P.S. If you know the guys on social who believe that a friend request from a total stranger leads to romance, even from a total stranger who looks miraculously like numerous other total strangers dressed as retired admirals and possessing adorable dogs, please inform them that I already have a more-than-satisfactory retired officer and adorable dog of my own. Thank you.

The Time Value of Literature

“A classic is a book that has lasted more than 100 years.” –

Famous Person Cited by English Professor Too Long Ago to Remember

But the forgotten famous person has a point.

Today at work, I was talking with someone about a writing project she’s considering, and two books published several years ago came into the conversation. “Of course, they wouldn’t be published now,” I remarked. Times have changed, the publisher’s needs have changed, what the market is reading has changed…the list goes on.

My subconscious mind must have thought this was interesting because the topic recurred in another guise while I was scrubbing a saucepan after dinner.

It began with recollections of a picture book my mama read us often when I was a little girl. The book is called Supposings, by Johanna Johnston, Pictures by Rudy Sayers. See? That’s already something different. Picture books now say “illustrated by” on the cover. Why did that change, I wonder? Is the word “pictures” too specific, or not specific enough?

Everything about this book reminds me of my 1970s childhood. I remember it being read to us, I remember the sunlight inside the rooms of our house and that soft “nap-time-soon” quiet feeling of cuddling on the couch with wiggling siblings, staring at pictures, pointing at things at will, floating along in the sound of our mother’s voice.

The colors in the illustrations and the style of them remind me of the curtains on the landing and a wool plaid vest my mama sewed that still hangs in my closet, simply for love.

I love this book. But if Johanna and Rudy submitted it now, would it be published? Would it be hard-back? (I don’t like picture books to be paperback. Thin and flooooppppy.) Would this simple, childlike journey through an afternoon of daydreaming be considered a plot? The illustrations would be different, wouldn’t they? Even art for children follows trends. Are those trends set more by adults, or by the shifting landscape of a generation raised in front of screens?

Supposings was published by Holiday House, Inc., in New York, in 1967. There was no such thing as self-publishing in those days. That means a New York editorial staff thought this book was a good risk. Would they now?

What was the competition like back then? Were publishers swamped with submissions the way they are now? Perhaps they thought they were, but could their swamp compare with the tsunami made possible by personal computers, internet research, and the lure of social media stardom?

Years ago, my Daddy explained to me what he meant by “the time value of money.” He told me that even if I have a million dollars, if it hasn’t been paid to me yet (or it’s tied up in a trust fund or etc. etc.), then it’s value is changed. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

Is there a similar principle for literature? To me Supposings is a classic because it is lovingly bound to a host of childhood memories. My objective analysis of its literary worth will be quite subjective, no matter what. Love is not blind, but sometimes love is not seeing the same object that everyone else is.

Would it be easier to evaluate the lasting literary contribution of a book for adults? I’m not sure. Novels go out of style. So do self-help books. Medical advice? Goodness yes! But at some point in all this analysis, one must confront the reality that a change in criteria is not always a change for the better. Before we can finish judging a book that wouldn’t be published if it were submitted today, we can’t avoid asking whether it should be.

Articles that should never be written

While reading the Dr. Seuss Sleep Book (impossible without yawning), I encountered a sentence that stuck with me. It’s about “five foot-weary salesmen” who have been racing around all day trying to sell zizzer zoof seeds, “which nobody wants because nobody needs.”

Today, I decided to make a list of articles that will never be written. Like the zizzer zoof seeds, they contain information that nobody wants because nobody needs.

Here goes.

Five Ways to Keep Your Baby Up All Night

“How stupid do you think I am?”: An Accurate Assessment

Pouff: Maximize Humidity Retention for Better Hair

Sweet Memories: How to Bronze Dog Mudprints from Your Carpet

10 Things I Wish Everyone Didn’t Know About Me

DIY Pocket Banners: Flag the Spot Where You’re Carrying Your Wallet

Slicker: Increasing Speed and Decreasing Traction on Your Rainboots

How to Ensure No One Will Forget What You Said at the Office Christmas Party. Ever.

Picnic Fun: Attract Angry Geese to Your Group in 3 Easy Steps

Be the Solution: A Frantic Woman’s Guide to Training Everyone to Depend on You for Everything

This is quite fun. Who wants to try? Name me some more articles that should never be written!!

#bloginstead: Day 2 morning news

Good morning! Welcome to Day 2 of #bloginstead, a group of friends who had abandoned social media in favor of blogging for 3 days. You are SO welcome to join us! Jump in by following the participating blogs and tell us who you are so we can follow you too.

New Members

I’m happy to say that our group grew during Day 1. Each new member was added to the list upon arrival, but I’m going to add them here to, as an extra way to rejoice. They are:

Susan at https://kindlerofjoy.com/

Amanda at https://emberings.com/

Martha at http://thescrumptiouslife.blogspot.com/

Heather at https://sleightholmfolk.com/

Emmie at https://justonerobin.com/

Kristi at https://raisingorthodoxchristians.com/

Angelina at https://angelinasgarden.wordpress.com/

Sarah at https://skbrangwynne.weebly.com/blog

You, Writing about #bloginstead

Skating around from one blog to the next, I read your reflections on why you’re here and what you’re hoping will come of this experiment. In the spirit of #bloginstead, I hope you’re all reading each other’s posts as they come, but for anyone who missed them, here’s some good reading to bring you up to speed.

Elizabeth, jumping in and offering you fair warning: https://elzabeta.blogspot.com/2020/01/day-first-of-bloginstead.html

Anna, beginning a true-life love-story miniseries and leaving us hanging on the cliff: https://browndressproject.com/2020/01/08/happily-ever-after-takes-work/

Matushka Anna, who is including amazing photos with each post: https://prayingwithmyfeet.blog/2020/01/07/back-in-the-saddle-bloginstead/

Sarah wrote us a poem. She seriously did. https://thelivescript.com/2020/01/08/bloginstead-the-hermits-lament/

Cris , fearlessly writing about being fearful: http://criscramer.com/blog/2020/1/8/standing-up-again

Stasia, amazingly honest and poignant, and smelling of roses: https://stasiastruggles.wordpress.com/2020/01/08/bloginstead/

Andrea, storytelling, story-keeping, in the forest and looking back at her family: http://storiedpathways.com/2020/01/07/sharing-a-story/

Nic asking the fascinating question, “But what if there wasn’t?”: https://metanoiabum.wordpress.com/2020/01/07/bloginstead-1-dig-deeper/

Catherine, on embroidery, translation, and doing fine things well: https://eventhinealtars.home.blog/2020/01/07/on-doing-fine-things-well/

Michelle, responding to struggle with new dedication: https://hopefulpatience.blogspot.com/2020/01/update-on-what-i-will-post-going-forward.html

Summer, offering what may well have been the quote of the day (it’s about helpful failure) and a pirate dog song: https://summerkinard.com/2020/01/08/bloginstead-challenge-day-one-episode-two/

Susan, remembering why she started blogging in the first place: https://kindlerofjoy.com/2020/01/08/2020-and-new-beginnings/

Amanda, because she can’t do anything else: https://emberings.com/2020/01/08/id-like-to-bloginstead/

Martha, bringing us a cozy Christmas post that even includes paper crowns on grownups: http://thescrumptiouslife.blogspot.com/2020/01/thoughts-on-nativity.html

Emmie, asking hard questions and finding beauty in a pomegranate: https://justonerobin.com/2020/01/09/whole-and-part/

Have you read these? Hop along over. Browse and comment. It’s peaceful, and these bloggers will answer your comments. The conversation is just waiting to happen.

The last day of 2019

This moment has little in common with the year that preceded it. It’s quiet. I have no immediate responsibilities, and I’ve had enough sleep for several days. The writer in me has relaxed into a daydreaming creative. Gratitude and peace are vying for space in my heart.

As always, I reserve this space for reflection on only those aspects of my personal life that directly manifest in my writing life, so I will not be journaling the events of this year. They were many, and more than once, they were life-changing. But I learned from them, and I’m glad of that.

In my writing life, I broke into two new genres! First, board books. It began with Piggy in Heaven, and then I got a contract for a second board book (due out in 2021), and a third is about to be contracted for August 2020. Three board books, three different publishers. Happy dance!

I love board books! I love writing stories that will be illustrated. I don’t think that will ever get old – hooray for illustrators! And I love the solid cardboard pages. I remember that board books are often teething toys, and this makes me smile. Little hands, dimply cheeks, wide eyes. God bless them every one.

My second burst into a new genre is a book I wrote with a group of friends. That in itself is unexplored territory, but the genre – a devotional journal – is also new to me. I’m looking forward with curiosity and wonder to the Fall 2020 release of Seven Holy Women, from Ancient Faith Publishing.

The third Sam and Saucer book took shape this year. I just sent in my revisions. The name of this one is still evolving, but it’s due out in July 2020. It’s interesting, to me at least, to look back to the scratch papers scrawls, the short story, the collection of short stories, the day we abandoned the collection, and the birth of that first book, Shepherding Sam. At first, I thought that was the only book. But the second – The Barn and the Book – came quickly, and its release in Romania was another highlight of 2019. I was sure there would be only two Sam and Saucer books. My editor said she thought there might be three. No, I said, just two. But maybe there are three, she persisted. Well, maybe. Actually, yes. It turns out there are three, and now I have learned not to decide how many books are in a series, because what do I know?

This was the year of audiobooks, too. Shepherding Sam and The Barn and the Book are now both on Audible, and with the gifted help of actress Sophia Boyer, so is Letters to Saint Lydia!

And now. I’ve lived too long with my wild brain and my busy life and my acceptance of the many twists and turns in the Great Plotline to make plans for 2020 in the ways I might have once. I do have hopes. I hope I write often. I hope there will be board books. I hope there will be many spacious hours adrift in the middle-grade novel I began this year. I hope I photograph our corgi doing one of the zillion adorable things he does, all the time, when I can’t reach my phone.

God bless and keep you!

Image: Clock, Grand Central Terminal, New York City, Bryce Barker on Unsplash