Prodigal You Love Book Release This Month!

6004-2I’m so excited to share with you the news that a wonderful new book, written by our newly professed sister, Sr. Theresa Aletheia Noble, fsp, is coming out this month!

Sr. Theresa has a fascinating story that led her to write this book–she herself fell away from the Church and became an atheist. After returning to the Church, she discerned a vocation to the religious life, and now she is a newly-professed Daughter of Saint Paul. I love the approach she takes in this book.

Sr. Theresa is also a regular blogger, and you may wish to follow her blog, Pursued by Truth. She writes about her book here, and she also offers a free download of the first chapter here! 

Online Writers’ Retreat by a Favorite Author

One of my favorite authors, Vinita Hampton Wright, is offering a free Online Writer’s Retreat, Writing for the Soul, this week. It runs from today, September 29th until Friday, October 3rd. Vinita wrote my all-time favorite writing book, The Soul Tells a Story: Engaging Creativity with Spirituality in the Writing Life. Do yourself a favor, visit her blog, and join in the retreat!

Even though this week is very full for me, I’m going to try to follow along. I hope to see you there!

A Little of This and a Little of That

The past several weeks have been “a little of this, a little of that,” so much so that I’m starting to feel a bit anxious to get back to my larger writing projects. But these days, I’ve strenuously tried to finish off many little pieces of projects. I’m afraid this post will reflect my scattered mindset, with “a little of this, a little of that.” Hopefully next week I can post more about how my bigger project(s) are going forward!

Sister Mary Lea and I have been doing a bit of preparation for promoting our Saints Alive! books in a special way this November. We even got in front of a video camera and joked around a bit…and this is the hopefully not-too-embarrassing result that will soon go up on the books’ new landing page:

Several children’s book authors of Pauline Books & Media have gotten together to do a “Back to School” Blog Tour. Britt Leigh, Nicole Lataif, and Marilee Haynes are all wonderful women and gifted writers. I really enjoyed checking out their blog posts! You can find the entire list here at: http://www.pauline.org/blog/ArticleID/1531/Back-to-School-Blog-Tour-Highlights-Catholic-Childrens-Literature

And…just for fun: Our sisters here in the USA and Canada have always had a special connection with our Sisters in Singapore, sharing projects and formation (several of our sisters from Singapore made their novitiate here in Boston). Now, they are raising funds to build a new convent.

This is their request for help:

And this is just a fun line-dancing video:


“The Song” Movie: Ambitious Attempt To Dramatize the Song of Songs for Today

One of my favorite (most-prayed-over) books of the Old Testament is the Song of Songs (also known as the Song of Solomon), a long poem about the love between a man and a woman. On one level, it’s a beautiful canticle to love which highlights the good and beautiful in human love, sexuality, and marriage. (St. John Paul uses this approach in Theology of the Body.) For many of the Fathers of the Church, the Song of Songs can also be read on the level of an allegory about the relationship between God and his People; or Christ and the Church; or the search for Wisdom. And for some spiritual writers, the allegory is about the relationship between God and the individual person. Not an easy book to understand in all its depth, yet it has inspired many, many people, including St. John of the Cross and those who have read his poems about mystical union with God.

It’s relatively easy to quote from the Song of Songs’s beautiful poetry; it’s another task altogether to try to reflect the meaning of this book in other forms. Three of my favorite works based on the Song of Songs are St. Bernard’s Commentary, Da Palestrina’s 29 intricate motets, and Michael Card’s song, “Arise My Love” from his album, The Way of Wisdom.

So it was with eager anticipation that I started to watch The Song, a film inspired by the Song of Solomon that is opening Friday, Sept. 26th. Unfortunately the film didn’t meet my expectations, but I have to laud the filmmakers for trying something so ambitious.

The Song is the story of Jed King, whose early life is haunted by the popularity and public mistakes of his musical father, David King. When he marries his wife Rose, a devout Christian, Jed’s musical career takes off and he eventually becomes very popular.  Life on the road isn’t easy, and as Jed’s success grows and he sees his wife and child less and less, he is tempted and eventually falls into drugs, alcohol abuse, and infidelity to his wife. The ending is predictable, but reinforces an important Gospel message. The film seems more of an attempt to give a modern take on the life of King Solomon than a dramatization of the Song of Songs.

While The Song has several good messages and some solid production values especially in its lighting and cinematography, overall it is not a solid film artistically. The lack of artistic merit starts with the heavy-handedness of the script, but carries through in many ways by being “a message movie.” The characters are not well-developed; it’s hard to understand their motivations and sympathize with them. Perhaps the filmmakers were trying to go with archetypes rather than characters, but the film really lost out with the lack of specificity. The lack of individuality made the characters feel generic, not universal. The women especially feel generic and stereotyped: they are either idealized as practically perfect or demonized as temptress. Jed’s and Rose’s relationship—the heart of the entire film—feels flat as well. The plot is predictable and the dialogue often obvious. I didn’t find the music engaging, but enjoyed the lyrics which have a number of references to the Song of Songs. The film was also a bit heavy-handed in its use of Scripture, though it was beautifully read throughout the film as part of the narration.

Despite my disappointment in the film’s artistry, The Song offers much for reflection on themes from Ecclesiastes and the Song of Songs. The Song could be particularly helpful in a pastoral/educational setting, to reflect on and discuss such themes as the beauty of married love, building a strong and faithful marriage, finding meaning in life, and the power of forgiveness in relationships.

Building creative synergy

Front door of the Daughters of Saint Paul novitiate and Pauline Books & Media

One of the joys of working at the Pauline Books & Media publishing house is that I get to work on many projects and, since frequently I’m just working on one piece of a larger project, I’m often working with others–both sisters and laity. It’s wonderful to tap into the synergy of such a creative group of people.

But even working in such a great atmosphere with such wonderful people, we have to work at creating a synergy that fosters creativity for everyone. Of course, that’s because we take our Pauline mission to heart: we all take on extra responsibilities because we want to every aspect of our mission to go forward. And so we’re all too busy to get together “just” to brainstorm.

But occasionally, we manage to pull it off. How? Here are some of the things we do–whether intentionally or intuitively–that work to nurture our creative synergy:

  • We share our deeper values–sometimes as we discuss the audience or scope of a project, sometimes in our prayer together. It’s our custom to start our meetings with prayer.
  • We build up community and share information and ideas informally–over a cup of coffee, taking a brief walk, etc. Just maintaining a regular flow of communication and ideas can spark new and exciting ideas.
  • We value input from people different from us (outside of our department), and invite others to brainstorm with us: people with expertise different from our own, with other perspectives, working in other fields
  •  We occasionally change our meeting venue–especially when things feel stale or pressured. Last month, a small group of us met at a coffee shop, rather than our conference room.
  • We pay attention to atmosphere. For example, if it’s a kid project, we try to make it playful and might bring a kid’s toy or prop.
  • We try to make our audience our starting point. Often one of us will spend a couple of hours researching a particular audience’s needs and bring that research into the brainstorming.

These things seem to help us make space for the creativity of the Holy Spirit, despite the busy schedules and the juggling of many responsibilities.

Invitation to Pray: “The World at Prayer” Digital Prayerbook

The World At Prayer CoverIn our Discover Hope News Notes this past Saturday, Sister Kathryn Hermes put together a digital prayerbook to support our faith and efforts to build a world of peace. You can find The World At Prayer here, but you may also want to read her beautiful reflection in these days when terrorism seems to threaten to reshape the world: In the Face of Terror: Keeping the Faith of the World Alive.

We help to bring about Christ’s ultimate victory over sin and death every time an act of hatred is prevented, every time we respond to senseless acts of violence and hatred with love, compassion, and prayer.

 

Blogging a Book: Challenges

Photo: Irene Robert Wright, fsp. © Daughters of St. Paul

Photo: Irene R. Wright, fsp © Daughters of St. Paul

Three-day weekends when we can take two days in a row to really relax are rare in convent life. Often Saturdays, Sundays, or holidays are times when we participate in special events or pastoral projects. However, since I’ve been assigned as a writer for digital media at our publishing house in Boston, I’ve had two three-day weekends (July 4th and Labor Day), and both have allowed me to move forward with my newest writing adventure: blogging a book!

With the news just days old that my book has been accepted for publication both as a blog and as a book, I was especially excited to dive in. I want to complete blogging the book within a year. Usually with that kind of a deadline, I’d be worried about finding the time to write it. But this time I face other challenges:

  • Keeping to the overall length. Initially I proposed that the book be about 52,000 words. (About 1,000 words a week, give or take!) But I’ve been asked to keep it to 40,000 words. I’m not sure how to do that and still cover most of the approved table of contents in sufficient breadth and depth.
  • Writing about spiritual topics in byte-size posts. The publishing team also told me that short entries are better, even in print form. I imagined 250-500 words an entry; they are recommending closer to 250 words. How do I deal with spiritual topics in only 250 words? And when I revise the blog into a book, do I really want to keep each blog post separate? The “experts” recommend weaving it together, but the publishing team is recommending keeping the book in “byte size” chunks.
  • Engaging readers so that the blog is truly interactive. This is by far the most exciting part of blogging my book. To do it, the blog needs lots of readers–readers who are really engaged and who comment, share, etc. I have lots of ideas for how to make the blog engaging, but I have no clue which ideas will work. I suspect that marketing the blog and making it truly interactive will be harder than writing the book. But it will be amazingly fun if I can connect with readers as I’m writing the book, and allow them to shape the content. For me, this seems the ideal way to communicate Christ–not a one-way communication, but a true dialogue so that the readers actually become co-creators of the book, and so that what I write about is truly helpful, and really resonates with the readers.

If any readers have successfully blogged a book, or developed a book from a website, or are thinking of doing it, I’d love to hear any questions or advice you’d like to share! (From the number of people reading and following my entries on this topic, I think a lot of the readers would be eager to hear further advice as well.)