Tag Archives: writers

Here’s a book for when you haven’t got a prayer

November 26, 2012

0 Comments

There’s a misleading subtitle on a wonderful new book, “Acceptable Words: Prayers for the Writer”; although writers are certainly the target audience, the collection isn’t just for writers, it’s for anyone.

Prayers come from a wide-ranging list, names you know and names you’ve more than likely never heard. There’s Thomas Merton and G.K. Chesterton, e.e. cummings and Bernard of Cluny, Thomas Aquinas, Jane Austen, John Donne, T.S. Eliot, Henri Nouwen, John Henry Newman, Alexsandr Solzhenitsyn and so many more.

But there’s also American poet Otto Selles and novelist Sandy Tritt, South African political activist Joe Seremane, Luci Shaw, Macrina Wiederkehr, Frank Topping, William J. Vande Kopple and Scott Hoezee.

Though they pray from different eras and in many different styles, a base of belief undergirds them all. As editors Gary D. Schmidt and Elizabeth Stickney note, “These are the prayers of those who love words and who love God’s world and who love the ways in which the words and the world may come together. These prayers are acts of devotion, are expressions of frustration, are pleas for hope and understanding.”

Hoezee, a minister and theologian, penned a few of those that spoke to me. In one, for example, he asks the Lord:

Help me listen to the ordinary things people tell me. Make me attend to how they speak and to the yearnings of their hearts that emerge in such daily conversations. If I need fresh language and new metaphors, let them emerge from the ordinary as well as from the extraordinary so that the words I wrote may, must so, speak strength and grace into the commonplace of people’s lives.

Topping, a methodist minister and playwright,  prayed one of those that non-writers will find of value:

Lord Jesus, write your truth in my mind, your joy in my heart, and your love in my life, that filled with truth, possessed by joy, and living in love, your integrity, your humor, and your compassion might be born in me again.

Artists of all kinds will appreciate these lines from Dag Hammarskjold, the late United Nations’ general secretary:

Thou takest the pen — and the lines dance. Thou takest the flute‚ and the notes shimmer. Thou takest the brush and the colors sing. So all things have meaning and beauty in that space beyond time where Thou art. How, then, can I hold back anything from Thee?

There are dozens just as meaningful and touching as these, prayers by Dom Helder Camara, by Rainer Maria Rilke, by the ancient composers of the psalms.

Schmidt and Stickney have organized them into eight categories with teasing introductions to each that will whet your appetite to dive into the batch of prayers that follow.

The writers’ way with words glistens in nearly every single one. Some are more formal and pietistic, some more earth-bound and in everyday language. You’ll find many you’ll want to pray over and over, but let me share just one more example from this Eerdmans paperback ($16). It’s credited to the conference of European Churches:

Lord God, we have given more weight to our successes and our happiness than to your will.

We have eaten without a thought for the hungry.

We have spoken without an effort to understand others.

We have kept silence instead of telling the truth.

We have judged others, forgetful that you alone are the judge.

We have acted rather in accordance with our opinions than according to your commands.

Within your church we have been slow to practice love of our neighbors.

And in the world we have not been your faithful servants.

Forgive us and help us to live as disciples of Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Savior. Amen.

— BZ

Continue reading...

Everybody thinks they have a book in them

May 20, 2008

1 Comment

It must be part of modern culture that everyone who ever received a B+ or better on a high school essay has a gut feeling that they could write a book someday.

Whether prompted by illusions of penning the great American novel, delusions that a lot of other people will care about your life story or sincere conviction that others will benefit by knowing your take on a topic, the urge to write can be overwhelming.

Also overwhelmed, in turn, are book reviewers.

Write a few reviews and the hopeful of the literary world beat a path to your in box.

That’s okay, though. Keep ’em coming.

As I crack the spines of new deliveries that appear with the request for reviews, a question that regularly comes to mind is this: Who does the person who wrote this think will be interested in this?

That may be a valid question, but others, and a better ones are: Might there be people out there who would get something out of reading this? Are there gems in here that make this worthwhile?
Let me give you a couple of examples.

Ready for your coffee table?

Judy McCabe, who lives in Minnetonka, put together some of her thoughts of home with photos — some good, some just ordinary — to create a well-design, coffee table book titled, um, “Thoughts of Home.”

McCabe, a member of St. Patrick in Edina, has moved around the country, and she wrote, “What I really want to do with the book is open a dialog for people who are relocated or transferred.” Could viewing scene of normal, every-day life around homes of various kinds inspire fond memories and help people appreciate home life?

To be perfectly honest — and I told McCabe this — the book didn’t do anything for me. I did like the book’s design, and I think it works as a coffee table book to browse through. The ordinariness of the home life she describes, though, doesn’t compel me to give a ringing endorsement of “Thoughts of Home,” but McCabe deserves at the very least a pat on the back for not letting her creative urge lie inert.
Find out more about McCabe and her work at http://www.thoughtsofhome-judymccabe.com/.

Life story of interest?

Then there’s Bill Mori. Mori is a member of St. Paul in Ham Lake who pulled together his memories of growing up in Fort Dodge, Iowa, during the 1950s.
“East End Italian” is a series of brief chapters that, for the most part, aren’t unique. Life in Fort Dodge and at Holy Rosary Parish there isn’t much different from life elsewhere in the country that I could see. Yet….

There are slices of small town life that Mori has preserved by being willing to try this authorship thing. My favorite concerns his job at the local mom-and-pop grocers, a holdout to the supermarkets of the day. Customers came in to Brechwald’s with a list of items, and schoolboys like Mori ran through the aisles to “fetch” them, as he writes. Never heard of that before.

Mori’s got some funny, funny anecdotes. There’s a great story about being fascinated with airplanes, writing away to obtain photos from the manufacturers like Lockheed, Boeing and McDonald Douglas, only to have the government agents show up at their door, wanting to question a certain William Mori who was so curious about the latest military aircraft.

If you want to know more, contact the author at bmori@comcast.net.

Spiritual poetry, anyone?

Margaret Peterson has been rhyming for years, and now her poems are collected in her first book, “The Pearl of Great Price: Spiritual Poetry to Life the Soul.”

My guess is that poetry experts might judge her work as syrupy, Pollyannish maybe, and definitely old fashioned, as if that’s a crime. But I liked it. It wore on me.

Yeah, it’s a bit on the sweet side, but I’m going to bet Peterson is sweet, too. This is a lady who has taught 4th grade faith formation at her parish, St. Bonaventure in Bloomington, for more than 20 years, and just loves doing it, we hear.

There is surely simplicity in some of her poems, but others carry wisdom — and do so with great economy. Two samples:

Mirrors
A mirror reflects
Whatever it views
We reflect
The paths we choose.
The Pearl of Great Price
God is the pearl
In the ocean of life;
Will we love Him or cast Him aside…
And spend our lives searching
For something unknown
To ease the longing inside?
Find out more by looking her up at http://www.margaretpetersonpoetry.com.

Courage counts

These are just three examples of local people who have yielded to the urge and tried their hand at the book world. Their work may or may not be your cup of tea or may have value for just a small number of readers.

But if wholesale endorsement of a work isn’t in the cards, anyone with the courage to work hard at getting a book out of their system deserves applause for at least that effort. And who know when the next author of bestsellers might be one of those folks brave enough to put words on paper. — bz

Continue reading...