Saturday, September 24, 2011

Reflecting the Spotlight

The recent warm reception of my guest post, "One thing is needful" at St. Lydia's Book Club has helped me appreciate how much grassroots effort plays a role in introducing new writers to a wider audience in the digital age. Say what you might about mutual appreciation societies, but it is useful in any field to expose your work to the criticism of your peers and receive encouragement from them; that's what professional conferences are for (not that I'm claiming to be peers with those who have responded). And while I'm certainly not a professional writer, and a blog is not a professional conference, the collegial interaction of writers in the blogosphere serves much of the same purpose.

One responsibility of engaging in a collegium is giving back. With that in mind, I wanted to highlight a couple of authors whose work I find authentic, compelling, and highly enjoyable, but whose work is not likely to show up at St. Lydia's Book Club.

I've recently highlighted the Foy Davis fiction of Gordon Atkinson, but wanted to recommend his new blog Tertium Squid, too. Tertium Squid is Atkinson's new blog chronicling his continuing search for truth. I was first "introduced" to Atkinson when he blogged about visiting St. Anthony the Great Orthodox Church in San Antonio at Real Live Preacher. His appreciation for the beauty of the Divine Liturgy sparked a flurry of conversation in the Orthodox blogosphere, some of it merely appreciative of the fresh perspective, some of it speculative that Atkinson was headed for conversion. In addition to blogging about his faith perspectives at RLP, Atkinson writes fiction that is refreshingly raw and honest.

Raw and honest might also describe the non-fiction that Claudia Mair Burney wrote on her blog Ragamuffin Diva, and while her Amanda Bell Brown Mysteries are informed by that grittiness, they are decidedly romantic fiction (and quite enjoyable). I discovered Burney when I stumbled across her write-up of the Ancient Christianity and Afro-American Conference. As is the case with Atkinson, the thread I think I enjoy most running through Burney's work is a diligent and honest search for Truth. Burney's latest project, The Sunshine Abbey, continues this trend. Her latest post "A Simple Shaft of Light" recalls some of the same ideas I wrote about in "One thing is needful" with respect to looking for and finding salvific beauty in the world around us.

Both Atkinson and Burney have had their flirtations with Orthodox Christianity, but are not Orthodox (Burney was--and is still little-"o" orthodox--read about that story here). So while both might be better qualified to be profiled at St. Lydia's Book Club, it is not likely that either will be. I hope that I can use my little bit of spotlight to shine some light on these excellent writers, too.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Orthodox Writers and Readers

My guest blog post is now up at  St. Lydia's Book Club. Melinda Johnson, who authors the blog, invited my guest appearance after an exchange initiated by my comment on her post "Poets and Artists..." In my post I consider how art can be a vector for grace and how I regularly fail to appreciate the rich blessings I have. Here is an excerpt:
Christ told Martha, “One thing is needful.” If I took this to heart I would arrange my whole life around this weekly judgment. I would live a coherently Christian faith. I would order my thoughts, my actions, my interactions with others so that I would prepare prayerfully and fully, instead of distractedly and in haste. God, in His grace, grants me to grow a little in this manner every week, every month, every year. The Church is not only a spiritual hospital, it is also a school of repentance. I am learning how to want and need that one thing: communion with God.

Keith Massey's "Iguanadon likes this" mug
I was humbled to be asked to contribute to this excellent project in the first place, but feel even more so after receiving very kind comments on my post from much more accomplished bloggers. I hope if you visit St. Lydia's, you'll also take the time to check out the cool Orthodox children's books at Jane Meyer's blog, solid parenting advice at Molly Sabourin's blog, and a very nice write-up on my post from Keith Massey, who is a language scholar, novelist, and novelty designer (I'm putting this mug on my wish list).

Please take the time to visit St. Lydia's Book Club, comment on my post, and check out Melinda's Letters to St. Lydia.