Cathy posted the interview she did with me about flash fiction right here. There’s a flash fiction autobiography of me and a six word story I agonized over for a few days. You can even write your own six-worder in the comments. Not that you couldn’t do that anyways but writing a six word story when it isn’t solicited is the ultimate in non-sequitur Internet behavior. So maybe you do want to do that elsewhere?
Photo by boogieswithfish.
The hang of it is that the people that need to know that aren’t reading this post in their feed reader right now. This catch-22, I believe, gives me license to openly laugh at the next unfortunate-looking person I see.
I also changed the theme. The image in the header graphic is an actual photo of me.
So go throw Mike Tyson’s Punchout into the ol’ gaming console or web browser and punch punch punch your way to happiness.
I got some great responses on my post wondering how pastors write and/or deliver sermons. Bill LaMorey from Calvary Fellowship West Hartford provided links to his personal site on how he does it, and linked to a Mark Driscoll interview where he reveals his method.
How pastors do this interested me because it involves writing alongside rhetoric. Me, being a libertarian, an introvert, and possessing horrible oral communication skills, this was uncharted territory. Pastors need to “reign” people in, exhibit outgoing social skills, and have a good grasp on rhetorical artistry, within their sermons—all three of which respectively butt up against my makeup. I’m foreign to the task.
I was hoping a certain ex-pastor and fabulous writer-colleague of mine would chime in, and he did via email:
There is a level of improvisation to many, if not all, pastors’ sermons. In many ways there’s an elements of spoken word to it.
There are notes, full phrasings and ideas flushed out, but on the stage (pulpit) the ideas progress and more often than not the pastor explores the ideas in front of people. I picked this up not only from being a pastor myself but from watching so many larger than life pastors do what they do from behind the scenes.
The sermons themselves are born from the contact of people, for the week leading up to the sermon the topic itself becomes a focus point for the preacher, being thought about and talked about up until sunday. This is why there is a level of improv, as the topic has been a large issue all week there is a comfort to let lose with it.
Personally I found the “i have to write down what he just said” moments came from the small improv moments.
I asked him if being a pastor helped his writing at all. His response:
It definitely helped me with writing. Sermons and any written material of a pastor has to not only flow a certain level but a level of heart has to always be present, which I took to writing. The heart strings being pulled bring people in, whether it’s prose or a sermon.
Some good thoughts here. Anyone have something else to add?
In lieu of an orthodox blog post I wanted to document my thought trail and sequence of events for considering the grand question at the end (time-constrained readers can skip to #8 with #6 as a bonus if it’s doable).
This may be of use to someone in the future.
…[T]here’s still one powerful rule that remains, and it can mean the difference between making a comfortable living as an author or just barely getting by despite the great reviews. Think of it as our industry’s Golden Rule and big fat secret.
Trying to get published, even getting published in more than one genre will greatly reduce your effectiveness at marketing and shrink your overall sales.
But I didn’t want to listen to that advice and set out on my self-willed quest to prove them all wrong.
In a world that takes the “diversify or die” rule to extremes, this might seem counterintuitive, but it’s rational. Businesses that specialize in one good product or service do better than ones that want to change everything for everyone—even conglomerates have divisions that specialize for certain market segments, and they spend years and reams of resources developing their product. So it is (or should be) with the sole proprietorship of the writer.
Most writers don’t want to hear this, or they just can’t. Trends change every 5-7 years (I’m not basing that on anything, just a random range that feels correctish), and aspiring career writers think they need to chase the market to cash in. It doesn’t help that there’s a growing subgenre-fication that has its time in the sun every market cycle: YAH! (young adult), vampire, sparkly vampire, urban fantasy, precocious wizard punks, telekinetic girls with shaved heads and dudes with nice abs supernatural thriller, et al..
Here’s the thing with those super-specific book types: the people that write those have been doing it for years, before it became popular; the skill didn’t consume them overnight, it festers in their lobes like cider. You’ve been writing fanfic for a month and suck terribly in your own pet genre, so don’t think you can rearrange your skillset in a few months and hit paydirt. Not even the experts can do that.
Photo by jacobwhittaker.
Hit the triangle, then continue reading.
I have three stories in the works that are not quite short story-length but they are longer than standard flash fiction fare. One of them involves murdering a monarchal retainer, the other talks about murdering a monarchal retainer, and the last involves an orbiting driving range in space. All three of them have the gentle appeal of social/soft science fiction and it was very intentional. I don’t really know what the intent was but it happened and now I’m stuck with it. Eventually I will stick all of you with it like a poorly-carved spear. It may be a little painful but it will assuredly be confusing.
If you were wondering what the deal is with the music: I thought it might make a “hey, I’m talking about doing things and not showing you my doings” type of post more attractive than just a bland update. Dicky’s string ‘n’ brass bombast can make a blurry photo of dried possum roadkill seem earth-shattering so it would probably work for me.
Silence was written by Shusako Endo, who is described by the book’s notes as being Japan’s foremost novelist. This fact brings the total number of Japanese novelists that I’ve read or ever known of to a whopping one. What’s notable about his eminence—an eminence which may still hold true since his death in 1992—is that much of Endo’s work, with Silence as its flagship publication, deals with Christianity, particularly Catholicism. While Silence isn’t necessarily didactic in the way we might regard Christian literature as didactic, the subject matter is notable seeing as only 1% of the population in Shinto-drenched Japan professes to be Christian.
The narrative follows priest Sebastião Rodrigues’ infiltration into the nation’s interior, and is based on the 17th century missionary endeavors of Portuguese Jesuit Catholics to Japan. After the Shimabara Rebellion in 1638 the shogunate was in high Christian- and foreigner-ousting mode. Christians were sought out and killed unless they publicly apostatized—your standard framework for religious persecution. In this setting the bulk of the novel deals with the issue of apostasy, both the apostasy that Rodrigues sees in others and his own interior battle of faith and the pull to stay alive by outwardly rejecting his belief system.
The story itself, carrying the theme of “God’s silence”, or inaction, in the midst of His followers’ suffering, was stirring and you can find summaries and reviews online elsewhere. Here, though, I wanted to mention some things implied by the novel that I found surprising. The first is that nowhere in the history of western culture will you hear anything about any eastern religion, particularly Buddhism, being oppressive towards unbelievers. The reason for this is that America has an inexplicable romanticism with eastern thought that throws up some cognitive barriers: when one is infatuated with a foreign belief system, dissonant information that would result in a double moral standard would be ignored or easily explained away. The seeker would only have to read publications by Laurence Waddell, Spencer Chapman, Percival Landon, or Capt. W.F.T. O’Connor to know how “bad apple” some members of a eastern religion can be (thanks to Tim O’Neill for the references). Good luck shelling out $30+ for their obscure books on amazon.
The other implication is that, despite the near invisible presence of Christianity in Japan, modern Christianity’s missionary response is abysmally asymmetrical. The time in which Silence takes place is the first stab by the church to outreach into the country yet it doesn’t seem to have gotten much better. I believe there are two reasons for this. One is that the exchange rate into yen isn’t as favorable as with non-developing nations (thanks to Marcia for this idea), so high school kids looking to go on a
all-expense paid poverty tour short-term missionary journey have to sell a boatload of Krispy Kremes just to get it started. This is understandable, and it’s easier to go after poor people on the verge of starvation than the materially well-off who have no practical need to consider pesky, airy things like metaphysical propositions. The other reason is that, perhaps because of the stated microeconomic cause, Africa*, because of its poverty (caused and perpetuated primarily by terrible governments, in my opinion) is often hoisted as the go-to baptismal font for American Christians to become absolved of their misplaced guilt of living in the post-Industrialized west. Japan is home to Sony, weird teenage fashion, and vending machines. They have electricity; they don’t need the Gospel message as desperately.
Aside from all of that, given the subject matter, the book is depressing and its ending mirrors Endo’s own life, in which he hinted at straying from Catholicism. Silence gives a good (fictional) introduction to a subject not many may know about.
*Africa, by the way, is not a monolithic demography but a continent of countless different histories, cultures, and beliefs. Whenever you hear or see something about helping “Africa”, it might behoove you to find out which version of Africa out of the thousands of versions is being addressed.