Tag Archives: books

Trying to Say God – Reading List

It’s been quite a weekend.  I have had the privilege of visiting the University of Notre Dame (also known as “my old stomping grounds”) for three days.  By myself.  It was great.  

So before I gush about how excited I am to hug my kids again, you might want to know what on earth was so exciting it could get me on an airplane for the first time in 10 years?

A number of equally excited people joined me in South Bend this weekend for the “Trying to Say God” conference…basically a bunch of Catholics-who-happen-to-be-writers and writers-who-happen-to-be-Catholics (and people who consider themselves to be both with equal ferocity) trying to scratch out a vision for what “Catholic literature”* was, is, and will be.

*This is maddeningly hard to define, and I’m not going to try.  If it includes some component of “Catholic” and some component “writer,” for now, it counts.

I will not bore you with the details…yet.  First, the take away.

If you looked into any of the essays I posted here, you know the debate.  If you didn’t, here’s the jist:  Why isn’t anyone today being Flannery O’Connor???  (That means: writing literary, challenging fiction with Catholic sensibilities and themes which is published by the major publishing houses and read by the multitudes.  No pressure.)

There are myriad answers to the question, but I’d like to focus on a different angle of it.  What we found this weekend was that the writers are out there.  I think the readers are out there.  At least, I know a few in my own small friend group.  Why can’t the writers and readers find each other?

Well, here perhaps I can help.  For the eight or so of you who still read this on occasion, I will share some of the amazing authors I met or heard about this weekend.  I will make the effort to find the small Catholic presses, the literary journals, and yes, the chapbooks of whoever is working toward goodness, truth, and beauty in their writing.  

Will you join me?


So that’s my manifesto…and here is installment #1.  Probably the longest one I’ll ever do, since I have three days worth of awesome to lay out for you.  So here goes.

Novels

I was privileged to hear a reading by Randy Boyagoda from his forthcoming book Original Prin.  It included pickleball.  I was sold.  The bad news is, it doesn’t come out until Fall 2018.  I will be holding my breath.  He does have two previous books, Governor of the Northern Province and Beggar’s Feast.

After hearing Suzanne Wolfe speak, I’m also ready to pick up Confessions of X.  And get a subscription to Image, to which I arrive at shamefully late.

I am currently working on Valerie Sayers’ The Powers and loving it.  Be aware it is not as fast-paced as some novels, but I fell in love with the grandma at once, and was bowled over to read about the Catholic-worker wanna-be and his encounters with Dorothy Day.  Who writes about that?!?  Valerie Sayers does.  I’m only three chapters in…but I’m recommending it anyway.

David Russell Mosley’s On the Edges of Elfland sounds like a party to me.  Starting to realize I may have all my reading for the rest of the year planned out after this post…

A great surprise was to find that my friend from Baton Rouge, Karen Ullo, was not only at the conference, but on the panels and selling her book.  It’s not for the faint of heart, but Jennifer the Damned follows an orphan vampire raised by nuns.  “Why a vampire book?” I asked.  “Because no one deals with the importance (and implications) of the Church in these vampire stories.”  Karen does.  Be warned: it is scary.  I might let Craig read this one.  But if you want horror with depth, this might be the book for you.

 

Poetry

I have been trying to add poetry to my diet, but wasn’t sure where to look.  Problem solved!  The bookstore sold out of Mary Szybist’s Incarnadine, so I am ordering it.  I was on the verge of tears three times listening to her insights from studying images of the Annunciation, and the poems which they inspired for her.

I skipped it, unfortunately, but many people were blown away by Natalie Diaz’s talk.  Check out When My Brother Was an Aztec.

 

Children’s/ Middle Grade/ YA

Amy Cattapan has written a highly-acclaimed book on teen suicide, Angelhood, which she hopes will succeed in opening up conversations about such a difficult topic between teens and their parents.  Again, haven’t read it (yet), but Amy is amazing.  Excited to get to this one.

 

Non-Fiction

Heather King delivered a beautiful, encouraging, kick-in-the-pants address for the conference.  I can recommend her post here unabashedly, and I can’t wait to read more of her gorgeous writing in Parched, Redeemed, or Shirt of Flame.  

Ken Garcia has a memoir coming out soon called Pilgrim River about finding God in the wilderness.  His reading at the conference included a geologist who cursed in geological terms…my favorite might have included the words “tiny precambrian brain.”  I was rolling.

The Strange Pilgrims blog duo, Jessica Mesman-Griffith and Jonathan Ryan are coming out with Strange Journey: How Two Homesick Pilgrims Stumbled Back into the Catholic Church.  Again, the reading was wonderful, and I’m looking forward to the rest.  This is not your grandmother’s come-to-Jesus story.  

 

Other Stuff worth checking out

Film: In Pursuit of Silence (forthcoming)

Commonweal (magazine)

Image (literary journal)

Dappled Things (literary journal)

Sick Pilgrims (blog thingy)

Wiseblood Books (publisher)


So.  I guess that’s a start.  Looks like I will be busy.  There are amazing, holy (well, mostly holy – like any of us!), engaging writers out there in the Catholic world.  Come, read their stories with me, and be transformed!

Summer Planshttps://www.tryingtosaygod.com/

I fear this blog is digressing into writing conference memoranda and book reviews.  

I guess it could be worse.

On that note, my summer plans include a visit to South Bend for a Catholic Writer’s Conference:

Trying to Say God

So it turns out that I’m not just lacking in talent for finding Catholic publishers…there are very few of them out there.  And few reviewers.  And few “Catholic” writers who claim the title and write with a “Catholic” worldview.

Why the “quotes”?  I’ve been doing the suggested reading to prep for the conference (see below), and this is one of the big questions: what does a “Catholic” writer look like and write about in 2017?  It’s easy to look back (Flannery O’Connor, Evelyn Waugh, Tolkein, and friends are mentioned constantly) but that’s not particularly helpful when faced with the challenge of how to address our current challenges and a church, as writers, and as readers.  So what’s a budding children’s author to do?

Thus the conference…maybe I’ll have some answers afterwards.  But if you need some reading (including lists of the American Catholics authors you may or may not have missed in your public high school American lit class), check out the links below, courtesy of Kenneth Garcia, who is hosting the conference.

And seats were still available last I heard…come join me!

 

Dana Gioia,  “The Catholic Writer Today,” Dec. 2013, First Things (https://www.firstthings.com/article/2013/12/the-catholic-writer-today)

 

Paul Elie, “Has Fiction Lost its Faith?”  New York Times, Dec. 19, 2012  (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/23/books/review/has-fiction-lost-its-faith.html)

 

Kaya Oakes, “Writers Blocked: The State of Catholic Writing Today,” America, April 28, 2014 (http://www.americamagazine.org/issue/writers-blocked)

 

Randy Boyagoda, “Faith in Fiction,” First Things, August 2013 (https://www.firstthings.com/article/2013/08/faith-in-fiction)

 

Francis Spufford, “Spiritual Literature for Atheists,” First Things, November 2015 (https://www.firstthings.com/article/2015/11/spiritual-literature-for-atheists)

And…we’re back

Re-opening the blog attempt #…

yeah, I don’t know either.

The whole keeping-up-frequent-posts-with-no-home-internet thing is a bit of a drag.  It requires discipline.  Which I sometimes lack.

But here goes again, anyway.

I went to my first writer’s conference this weekend.  The Louisiana-Mississippi region of SCBWI held its first ever KidLit conference Saturday at Sacred Heart Academy in New Orleans.  It was lovely.

The take-away:  Write for yourself, revise for your readers.  Thank you, Cheryl Klein.  

We also got to meet Angie Thomas, four days after her debut novel The Hate U Give hit #1 on the NY Times bestseller list.  Needless to say, she was glowing.  Though I suspect that is usual for her.  She was definitely an inspiration.  Yes, I bought the book.  No, I haven’t read it yet.  Really have to finish Octavian Nothing Part II before I take on anything else.  And that may be a while.  

I also got to meet Carrel Muller, who is the lower school librarian at Sacred Heart.  I want my girls to go to school there so she can be their librarian.  She is lovely!  She convinced me I need to go back and fill in all the holes in my folklore and mythology education.  And read do the same with my kids.  She also read a piece of mine (in the First Look part of the program where they read and critique the openings of several submissions), and it was exactly as I would dream of a children’s librarian reading it to little ones.  So that was a very cool moment.  Now if I can just convince someone out there to publish it…

Right.  So on that note, I could use prayers for persistence – to keep showing up at the page, and to keep sending things out, despite the piles of rejections.  Blah.

For those of you who are here less for the minutiae of my writing life, and more for cute baby stories, the lovely children are well.  I’ve picked up two Latin classes at JPG in the mornings, so they are spending the mornings with a friend and coming home for lunch, naps, etc. in the afternoons.

Just through May.  If the headmaster asks, you can assure him I still do not want to come on full time next year.  This experience has been a good reminder of where I want to be.  Home.  Period.  Which, of course, includes the library and the park.  But mostly home.

I thought our chickens had stopped laying, but it turns out they laid all their eggs in the bushes for a while.  Under the blackberry brambles, to be precise.  We found 24 one day, and 7 the next.  We have three chickens.  Three eggs a day, at best.  So it was a jubilee.  They seem to have figured out the purpose of the nesting boxes again, though.  Which is easier, but less exciting.  You can’t have everything, I guess.

We planted some vegetables and flowers last weekend.  (Thanks to Fr. Sam for the seeds!  The wildflower bed is well on it’s way!)  Hopefully there will be pictures…when I get better at technology.  Maybe next spring.  
Book of the week: This Is Not My Hat by John Klassen.  Hilarious.  It should be used in film classes as a study in dramatic irony, and in writers’ workshops as and example of how the pictures and text work together.  No redundancy – each does its own part towards a flawlessly integrated whole.  And it’s soooo funny.

I hope that there will be more posts soon.   And that is not intended as ironic, but whether it is or not remains to be seen.

Homeschool Highlights

Lucy and her friend were practicing multiplication tables this morning (not my idea – I love having extra kids around sometimes!) and they decided it would be fun to make it into a Go Fish! game.  So they did.  And spent half an hour or so playing 6 Times Table Go Fish.

Just caught Clare explaining to another friend about how difficult it was for Michelangelo to carve David (“and if he made a tiny mistake, just this big, the whole thing would be ruined!”) and retelling the story of The Library Mouse.  Narration?  Done.

And as I type, Isaac is trying to put an apple slice in my pocket.  Earlier he was working on building train tracks.

In other news, I should be putting my first children’s book manuscript in the mail in the next couple of days.  Pray hard!  Asking St. Therese of Lisieux for special help, since it is about her, after all.  (And if you want a preview, let me know and I’ll send the text along.)

The Courage of Sarah Noble: Lucy’s book review

🙂 You should read The Courage of Sarah Noble.  You should read it because it is about a little girl named Sarah Noble and she goes into the woods with her father to build a house near Indians.  She had to leave the rest of her family behind because there wasn’t enough room to bring everybody.  The Indians turned out to be nice.  So when her father left to bring the rest of their family home, Sarah stayed with the Indians.  Their closest friend was Tall John so she stayed at Tall John’s house.  The Indians of the North were the other Indians’ enemies.  The most interesting part was that the Indians at the North passed by the Indians at night and did not disturb the Indians.  Sarah Noble taught the Indian children many things, and they taught her new Indian games.
the end
Love,
Lucy
PS
this is one of the best books ever! 🙂

A Lion to Guard Us: Lucy’s book review

This book is about three little children.  There names were Amanda, Jemmy, and Meg.  They sailed on a ship to go to America and to find their father in Jamestown.  Their father had a door knocker that people thought was made of gold.  Dr. Crider is a doctor that helped them get to the boats and he fell overboard on the ship.  Their ship got shipwrecked at an island and they  built a tiny village.  They built two ships and sailed to Jamestown.  They found their father at Jamestown.  My favorite part was them getting to find their father. 
Love, Lucy.
P.S.
This book was the best book in my life!

Trumpet of the Swan: Lucy’s book review

I liked

Trumpet of the Swan.  You should read it.  It is about a swan who doesn’t have a voice, but gets a trumpet and learns how to play it.

The swan’s name is Louis.

Louis’ dad robbed a music store to get a trumpet.

It is also about a little boy named Sam.  Sam saves Louis’ mother from a fox by hitting him on the nose with a stick.  Louis works so he can pay back the trumpet that his father stole.  It was very exciting.  My most favorite part was when Louis got a trumpet, because he did not have a voice.  The book has pictures in black and white.

Of spiders and schoolgirls

I just have to say, I am so glad we are homeschooling.  Lucy informed me last week that the picture books I had been getting from the library were “getting boring”, so I thought, “fair enough- we’ll move up to the 3rd-5th grade reading list.  I started her with Charlotte’s Web.  She is reading it herself (and she doesn’t know every word, but has no trouble at all discussing the story with me) so I am reading it myself, too.  And I had forgotten, if I ever really appreciated, what a wonderful book it is.  Which I most likely would have missed out on if she were in school, and it wasn’t my job to pay attention to what she was reading and what she is getting out of it.
In other news, Lucy is about to loose her third tooth in less than a month, and all three girls are loving their ballet classes.  Lucy is very excited about her first communion this spring, and has taken possession of my old Precious Moments Bible (from my first communion) earlier than I had planned, because she wants to read it, too.
And tonight we make pumpkin pie.  It’s a good life.

The Big Disconnect

Diane Rhem had a fascinating and timely show on yesterday, discussing the book The Big Disconnect with its author, Catherine Steiner-Adair.  She proposes, rather simply, I thought, that screen time affects our neurology and our interactions with others, and that therefore we should consider carefully the effects of screen use, especially for younger children.  Based on my own experiences, both raising children and teaching, not to mention in my own social life, I thought she was right on track.  What really amazed me was the backlash she received in the comments. It really brought home to me how desperately we are attached to our “devices”. I suggest listening, it will be an hour well spent.
And I do realize the irony of my blogging from a tablet to point out the dangers of technology and children. When we start our Catholic Worker paper, maybe it will be different. In the meantime, I guess I’m using what’s available. And I would like to note that I stopped this post in the middle to make breakfast for Samantha. Which was a struggle, because I wanted to finish. And now Clare is up, so I’ll be signing off. Check out the show, though. I will be hunting down a copy of the book.

And a post script – After grocery shopping and lunch, it took three more interruptions to check that what I wrote earlier actually made sense. Which is why the title of this blog is what it is. And the link is below, in case the one at the top of the post has issues. Still not trusting this tablet completely.

http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2013-08-14/catherine-steiner-adair-big-disconnect

Homeschooling digest 3/18/2012

Friday Lucy helped me make strawberry jam – our best batch yet.  She was very excited about making it so we didn’t have to buy it any more.
Saturday the girls helped me weed a bed at Nana and Papa’s and scatter seeds for the polyculture.  That meant lessons on mulch, different kinds of seeds, weeds, manure, and lizards.  We went to Mass and to Mimi’s for a St. Patrick’s day dinner.
Sunday was our day off for the first time in a couple of weeks.  The girls got to go swimming and played outside with the neighbor kids.  Lucy is just like Craig – she wants to invite everyone she meets to dinner immediately.  Lucy also helped clean up some shelves I found on the side of the road and both girls helped cut strawberries for “fruit nachos”.
Today (Monday) we read the first story in House at Pooh Corner and Lucy had ballet.  We tried to Skype with a friend in Seattle, but it didn’t work right.  But we did get a geography lesson on where New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Seattle are.