Month: January 2016

When Art Disappears….

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Americans know we are under attack. The hate mongers from the Middle East are bent on the destruction of our people and our land. As a threatened people, we find ourselves taking a hard line against “those” people without remembering that their are some, who value their land, their lives and their history. I, for one, well understand that we must be vigilant without hate, and tolerant without judgment, as well as smart and armed with preparedness. With that in mind, I thought about the arts.

Over the past few years, I have been disheartened to watch the destruction of art, artifacts and historical buildings being lost in Syria. In 2014, a mosque, or what we might know as a church, was destroyed by insurgents as they burned thousands of rare religious documents before destroying the site.

In the coming weeks, I will share stories of the art and architecture that has been lost to historians in an effort to reveal what the loss may mean to our world. As a Christian, I know these material things are just “things.” Yet, as an art lover, I also know the richness I have gained in viewing beautiful works and the understanding I have experienced of various cultures through art as I have travelled around the world.

Maybe, in the greater scheme of things, we all will seek to support the recovery and return of stolen works of art around the world.

Who Has Influenced You Along Your Writing Path?

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I wrote this post a couple of year ago, but felt compelled to repost it today as a thank you to Michael Neff, a man who encouraged me on through my first steps as a writer. It’s a tribute, of sorts, to my time at the Algonkin Writer’s Retreat, a precious time of discovering a path I am still following.

A long time ago, in a far away place…. okay, so it was ten or so years ago in Washington, D.C. I attended a writers retreat, Algonkian Conferences, put on by a man called Michael Neff. I arrived at Dulles Airport after dark and took a cab to the cabin located in a state park not far from D.C. For a moment, I thought the cab driver was taking me somewhere to kill me, as I had no idea as to where I was going. We wound our way through tall pines with no other humans in sight. I found myself praying out loud. He didn’t kill me, but over the next couple of days, I wondered if it would have been less painful than my insecurities during that retreat. Ten students, both male and female, shared two five bedroom cabins along the edge of the Potomac River. It was lovely and we were all hopeful that our writing would be grandly praised. We spent a full week there, writing, critiquing, and string meals. The first day or two, Michael Neff listened to our works, gave us homework and explained the difficult road that might lie ahead, as many writers give up after a retreat, or worse yet, just don’t show up to their desks to write. He pushed us to limits we didn’t know we had. His sharing of his professional information and resources, helped us band together. He supported us with such zeal it made me feel like we could take on a dissident country. Every day we swore we were going to work harder to make him proud. The next day, armed with new work, we’d read, listen to his wisdom and revise the work for the next day.He’d push us again, stretching us to go beyond the limits we had arrived with. Though we loved him dearly, we’d sometimes giggle at the idea of setting him afloat down the Potomac tied to a donut raft. It took us the entire week to realize the enormous value of what he was teaching us. We didn’t know anything! We were cocky, over confident and just too green to realize we didn’t know what we didn’t know! Many weeks later, Neff’s wisdom sunk in. I came to realize that Michael Neff was the first of many mentors to give me good, sound advice, advice that moved me step-by-step to where I am today. A year later, because of Michael Neff, I attended and pitched a book at a New York Pitch Conference. It was a book I hadn’t even written! With my pitch, I got a manuscript request from two publishers for a book that didn’t even exist! What I learned from the conference and from Michael, was how far I yet had to go. From there, I began to focus on the craft of writing, obtaining my M.F.A. Shortly after graduation, my first novel was published and I haven’t looked back. In July, Vox Dei, a Christian imprint of Booktrope Publishing released my third novel, The Button Legacy: Emily’s Inheritance.

Today, I just wrote THE END on my first mystery, all because I took the first step at Michael Neff’s Algonkin Retreat! For that, I will be ever grateful to Michael Neff. He made an enormous difference in my writing career!

It is funny how people come and go in your life, influencing you without you even understanding the effect they have had. I don’t know why this hit me today, but it did. It also caused me to reflect on those who have had a spiritual influence on me, as well. My grandfather, John Lovean, my brothers, Kent and Milton and my older sister, Sue have been influencers in both my private and public lives. Thanks to all of you for making me see beyond what this life has brought me here on earth. You led me to the gift of eternal life. For more information on Michael Neff’s New York Pitch Conference see http://algonkianconferences.com/index.htm

Should Writer’s Rant?

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I don’t spend as much time on Facebook or social media as my writing world demands, although I plan on making greater strides with doing so in 2016. Lately, I have been personally turned off by several posts of some wonderful writers I know and love.

As a reader of these writers, I often wonder if they realize that it is not attractive to post their “poor me” personal situations, their left and right wing politics or their narrow ideologies on the same public and social media meant to promote their work. I use social media as a way to happily engage with readers, friends, colleagues, and family, not to drive my social or political agenda.

I say all of this as I found myself engaged in a rant with a fellow writer whose views on almost everything in life, do not reflect my own. Though my words were not venomous, I left the conversation tongue-lashing myself for making any comment, even though the other writer’s angry words were directed at people who hold my beliefs.

But here is the kicker. The effect of the ranting writer’s post was that I stopped reading their work. I quit telling people that I knew about that writer’s work. Instead of being an advocate for that writer, which I had been, I made a conscious choice to stay silent.

I still care very deeply about that writer. Their work is breathtaking and relevant, but they offended me deeply with their ranting even though it was not directed at me personally.

I guess what I am saying is that a writer, any writer, takes a huge risk of alienating their readers by airing their own biased beliefs, prejudices or politics on social media. One offended reader can defer many others, just as one loyal reader can create many sales.

I am not suggesting that a writer changes who they are or what they believe to appease a buying crowd. Instead, I am suggesting that we, as writers, do not personally know all of our readers, so airing our ideologies and biased opinions in a public forum may alienate a once loyal reader and shatter the persona a reader once believed about us.

It’s time we writer’s “get” the point that the world doesn’t need or want to hear us “vent” about our daily personal woes, nor our public or political views on social media. It can drive a deadly wedge between a favorite author and a loyal reader leaving both parties angry and abandoned.

Tell me if I’m wrong.