Preview of Coming Attractions~Soon(ish)

watch this space

Well, not this space exactly. Like space space. But this space–jodyleecollins dot com.

As many of you know (if you’re signed up for my newsletter) I am revamping my website and going on hiatus for the month of August, and by “August” I mean starting now.
Lots of spiffing up to do on the way to a whole new look. All of that takes brain power. And time.

To that end– a spanking new website–this in-between phase is like opening the door of a magic cupboard and stepping into something surprising on the other side. But first I have to open the door and take the first step. Then the next. And do super-exciting work like delete 192 miscellaneous ‘tags’ from my blog essays. And choose font sizes. And integrate email subscriber services. (I’m not even sure what that means.) Yep, glamourous and surprising, eh?

I’m also preparing to be gone for a week–July 29th-August 5th–to the Glen Workshop in Santa Fe, New Mexico, sponsored by Image Magazine at Seattle Pacific. This will be my first visit to “The Glen,” as it’s fondly called. The gathering is a 7-day immersion into the world of writing and talking and connecting with like-minded Christian poets, artists and writers from across the country. I am very much looking forward to this birthday gift to myself (August 10th; thanks for asking) and getting to meet British poet extraordinaire, Malcolm Guite.

I only have so many brain cells currently available for those endeavors, so I’m pressing the ‘pause’ button for about 6 weeks.

So What Can You Expect?

In addition to featuring faith writers of color via interviews–“5 Questions For…” and telling my readers about female faith writers over 50–The Sage Ones–the new website will include lots of ‘Listicles’–articles in a list form. 
Things like:
Three Non Profits I Know and Love
Five Writer Tools I Can’t be Without
10 Female Christian Poets You Should Know
5 Tips for Uber Novices

I’m super-practical about giving people tools to succeed in their gifts and calling. With that in mind, I’d like jodyleecollins.com to be a bulletin board of sorts, a place to Inform, Encourage and Inspire, as well as become a go-to resource for other Christian writers and bloggers.

God’s continuing to confirm His call and gifting and my life as an Cheerleader, Encourager and Connector. If you’re a writer, I want to help your work shine. There will be information and how-to’s like Self-Publishing 101, where to submit your work and how to write a query/pitch. What to consider when you’re launching a book….and more.

I will still have my current Editing Services page if you’d like to hire me to review your works in progress.

There will also be a new Speaker page featuring past topics and events and how and where people can contact me to share at their gatherings.

And, my Most Fun Idea yet, a Photography page. I enjoy snapping photos of sunsets, flowers, water and sky, what-have-you and while I post most of that over on Instagram I’d like to feature a landing page with slides and music. 
My uber-talented web gal Gretchen is helping with all the magic. We hope to be back online and in the blogosphere by September 1st.
See you then!
——-
P.S. You can sign up for my newsletter “Random Acts of Writing” right here.

5 Questions for… Sheila Wise Rowe

wonderyearslaunch-contributors-bestphoto

This is third in a series, “5 Questions for…”, conversations with Christian writers of color. (You can read my other two interviews HERE-with Deidra Riggs and Sophfronia Scott).

I met Sheila Rowe at the Festival of Faith & Writing last April (pictured above in red, between poet Luci Shaw and writer Michelle Van Loon). Sheila was one of the featured readers at a book launch party for “The Wonder Years—40 Women Over 40,” an anthology edited by Leslie Leyland Fields.

Though she is quiet and low key in person, Sheila is a gentle powerhouse for Jesus. I chatted with her briefly after the party, remarking on the essay in “The Wonder Years” about her time living in Africa. The gathering was too short and I wanted to get to know her better. When I returned home to Seattle, I reached out about interviewing her. She said yes and I’m so grateful she did. I learned a lot first hand about what it’s like to be a Christian and an African American in our country right now, and how particularly to pray.

Here are 5 Questions for Sheila, but this time her responses are via audio (right below the list of questions.)

I hope you’ll take 10 minutes to listen and be informed, encouraged and inspired. (And find out about her Paris designer thrift store find!)

1.       Tell us about the Cyrene Movement. On your website it says the focus of your ministry is three-fold, to “Heal Racial Trauma – Realize Potential – Embrace Community.” How did this work come about? 

2.       The tagline of your first book, The Well of Life is, Heal Your Pain, Satisfy Your Thirst, Live Your Purpose. Tell us about that second phrase–Satisfy Your Thirst.

3.       You recently signed a book contract with Intervarsity Press. Tell us about the subject and how you came to write it.
 
4.       You are a gifted and anointed counselor as well as a very adventurous spirit. Tell us about your ‘day job’ at Rehoboth House that focuses on counseling and transformation.
 
5.       Lastly, you and I have a common love of thrift stores–what’s the most memorable find you ever purchased from a secondhand store?
You can read more about Sheila’s work and ministry on her website HERE. 

What I’m Reading–3 Top Picks for Summer

I hope you’ll find some time to read just for fun this summer, just for the enjoyment, inspiration and beauty of words. Here are my 3 top picks to consider–Poetry, Biography and Fiction.

Poetry–Poems to Learn by Heart, Caroline Kennedy, Editor

caroline kennedy collection

I met Caroline Kennedy when she was in Seattle five years ago for April’s annual National Poetry Month. (“Met” is a relative term; see photo below.) The line to get into the enormous church snaked around the streetcorner but it was so worth the wait. Caroline  was animated and inspiring, regaling us with tales of how her grandmother made she and her brother John learn and recite poetry. How Uncle Teddy entertained the family with his memorization of “Paul Revere’s Ride.” Poems to Learn by Heart is a lovely book to look at as well as read, full of remarkable illustrations. Sections include poems about friendship and love–with passages from I Corinthians 13 and Micah 6:8–as well as poems on family, school, sports and games. And because the book is for children, too, there are fairies and ogres and nonsense, some of which I enjoyed reading out loud to my grandchildren.

Here’s my post/poem about meeting Caroline.

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‘Caroline Kennedy’ (can you read that? Smile.)
caroline kennedy
The closest I’ll ever be to royalty.

2. Biography–Helen Keller, The Story of My Life, 1967 Scholastic Edition

the story of my life

“Those are red-letter days in our lives when we meet people who thrill us like a fine poem, people whose handshake is brimful of unspoken sympathy, and whose sweet, rich natures impart to our eager, impatient spirits a wonderful restlfulness which, in its essence is divine.

“The perplexities, irritations, and worries that have absorbed us pass like unpleasant dreams, and we wake to see with new eyes and hear with new ears the beauty and harmony of God’s real world.”

I re-read The Story of My Life last summer and was surprised as a grown-up to recognize the way Helen Keller’s faith in God shown through her words. I also enjoyed very much the description of Annie Sullivan as Helen’s teacher, and what it was like for Helen to go to college. We share a similar aversion to numbers, and her comments made me smile.

There is much to enjoy in this book–the description of nature, it’s sounds a n d “sights”–“reading” other people with a simple touch and “listening” with one’s hands.  This is a short book but full of rich words to savor. The Story of My Life is only $2.50 Amazon(!!) and also available FREE as a PDF from the American Federation for the Blind. Click here to download it.

The book was also made into a movie “The Miracle Worker” with Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke as Helen. The movie was filmed in 1962 and Patty won the Academy Award for best actress that year; she was a mere 16 years old. If you click on the video in the blue highlighted link, you’ll find the sound to be a bit iffy, but I still like it better than a contemporary adaptation done by Disney in 2000 also available online free.

3. Fiction–Wonder, R.J. Palacio, Alfred Knopf, 2012

Wonder cover

School is officially out for the summer, and although I’m retired, I still mark time by the school calendar. When I was substuting as an elementary teacher, it seemed every other week there was at least one classroom where Wonder was the class readaloud. Of course, that meant I read only one or two chapters at a time and completely out of order, so I had no idea what the story was actually about. The illustration looked odd to me and I couldn’t ever get a straight answer to, “What’s the book about?”

I figured it was another wimpy kid’s book; you know, not actual literature, just some fluff. But Elementary school kids are always the first to know when anything cool is going on, especially when it comes to new books. After all, it’s because of “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” that some  5th grade boys I know actually started reading.

R.J. Palacio (a sort of made-up name; more on that later) wrote Wonder in 2012. The book wasn’t on my radar again until the 2017 movie came out with Julia Roberts. She played the mom (Owen Wilson plays the father) and I definitely wanted to see it. But first I had to read the book.

I’m so glad I did.

Raquel Jaramillo, aka R.J. Palacio, was a children’s book editor and working with OTHER people as a cover designer for their books before she wrote Wonder. (Palacio is her mother’s maiden name.) If it wasn’t for a chance encounter at an ice cream shop with her kids in their New York neighborhood, the story of Wonder never would have been born. (Palacio tells the background of the book in her Preface.)

Wonder is told from different viewpoints, each one a person connected to Auggie Pullman, the main character.  Of course, the first person we hear from is Auggie, who tells us what it’s like to be him—a kid with severe facial abnormalities due to a very rare condition—Treacher Collins Syndrome.

Other sections are written by Auggie’s sister Miranda, two classmates Summer and Jack, as well as a section is written by Justin, Auggie’s sister Olivia’s boyfriend.

Like the Gospels, Wonder weaves together an entire life story via these alternating narratives. Through the weaving we learn about prejudice and the harm it can do, as well as the revelation that comes when people recognize and embrace their alikeness more than their differences. Embedded in the weaving are Mr. Browne’s Precepts, taken from the words of well-known writers, including John Wesley, Virgil, John Donne and Blaise Pascal.

If there’s one theme of Wonder, it’s to be kind. And to not judge a book by its cover. 

That’s a lesson that never goes out of season.


You can learn more about Treacher-Collins syndrome here.

 

 

 

The Hardest Words This Week-#suicide

When the world makes no sense and life is way too big and out of control, people turn to activities that bring comfort, actions that bring peace to the chaos. It helps to cope with wrapping up the crazy. Some people cook, other people paint, the fit folks run. Me, I process my world by wrapping it up with words, letters like so many building blocks to support me, defining a space with syllables and sound. Picking up my pen(cil) is a way to pray on the page, pouring out my thoughts to the King, as the Psalmist says in Psalm 45.

The demonic scourge of suicide was recently unleashed in our fair land, claiming the lives of two high profile creatives. I realize that depression and mental imbalances played a large part in those actions, and yes, ‘demonic’ is a strong word. However, it also wraps up well the way the father of lies convinced gifted, desperate, despondent souls to take their own lives. One week prior to that, before Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain each died at their own hands, my friend D. also took her life.

Her actions did not make the news, no one tweeted about it, there will be no public funeral. She was just my friend from high school, someone I’d known for 50 years. We double dated to the prom, I escaped my siblings by cooking in her mother’s kitchen when we slumber partied on the weekends. We were in each others’ weddings; those kinds of friends. Since we had each gone our married and geographically separated ways, my sister L. had become one of her dearest confidants and neighbors with their lives deeply entwined. Each year the three of us would reconvene for a birthday lunch when I came to visit. I looked forward to this every summer.

This summer is different.

When my sister called about D’s death at her own hands, I collapsed in a puddle on the floor and cried off and on for about two days, the tears barely held at bay behind my heavy eyelids. I hurriedly pieced together plans to fly South from Seattle to be with my sister, offering my support as she walked through the aftermath of sorting out D’s sordid state of affairs. She was sadly estranged from her two remaining family members and had no spouse or children, no family but her close friends. My sister was part executor of her estate, part administrator, 100% devastated; it has been brutally difficult.

During our week together, in between the heights of laughter and depths of our sobs, I was reminded more than once of the truth in John Chapter 12.  “Unless a kernel of wheat dies, it stands alone, but i f it dies, it bears much fruit.”

There has been a glimmer of growth in my own awareness, a sort of ‘snap-out-of-it!’ revelation. That is, when someone says they’re “just hanging on”, as D did two years ago when we departed from our birthday lunch, that I/we would not turn a deaf ear, but pursue those comments and search for the root of the pain. That we would listen between the lines and ask, “What do you mean, you’re just hanging on? What’s up?” 

That we would push our way into the dark and contend for the light when friends are in a pit, perhaps rendering a reply in the middle of their desperation. There is no guarantee of a response, but we need to ask.

———

Hours after her death, messages were discovered, D’s typed out wishes and last words. What to do with her bird, who should have her jewelry and how very, very sorry she was for leaving the world in this way. She had been in a pit for a long time and no one knew how deep it was or how despondent she felt.

My prayer these days is that my dear friend’s death will be a seed that takes root, grows well and bears fruit–the fruit of life and renewal in my sister, myself and our small circle of friends. That suicide will not have the last say; in fact, it might be a kind of salvation for others as we #getwoke. That D’s death will lead to new life in other ways in those who remain.

———

For now and in the days and weeks to come, words are all I have. But I remember it is God’s word that m a d e the world, and His power to bring life out of death gives me hope.

I’m clinging to that.

———-

I posted an edited version of these thoughts over on my Poetry page earlier last week, under #notapoem. 

 

“The Sage Ones”–Ten Faith Writers Over 50

After my April visit to the Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin College (Grand Rapids MI), I came home resolved to do two things better with my small place on the internet. One of those resolutions is to champion the voices of women faith writers over the age of 50, vastly underrepresented in the webosphere, in my humble opinion. Of course, being over 50 (over 60) myself, I was keenly aware of the lack of more seasoned, experience writers speaking into the lives of younger people.
 
To that end, I reached out to 10 women whom I had either met in person over the years or whose work I had been following from afar. Each one graciously said “yes! count me in!”, sending me their photos and bios (told in first, second or third person, just to keep you on your toes.) 
 
May I present to you The Sage Ones–writers whose voices of experience, wisdom and wit are a much-needed commodity in our youth-obsessed culture. I hope you’ll look for their words online and connect via social media channels, Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. 
  1. Deidra Riggs                       Headshot 2018

I’m an author, speaker, and unashamed disco-lover. My husband and I are the happy inhabitants of an empty nest in Bloomfield, Connecticut. We are the proud parents of two adult children whom we love, practically to death, and Santana, our brilliant farm dog (we named her after Carlos, the musician), and Sasha Fierce, our high-maintenance Shi-Poo. 

My public writing and speaking most often seeks to gently nudge the status quo, introduce you to interesting people, and celebrate your right-now-right-here life, so that the best kind of love can take root in your soul.

I’m the author of two books: “Every Little Thing: Making a World of Difference Right Where You Are,” and “ONE: Unity in a Divided World.”

You can find Deidra online on her blog as well on Instagram.

  1. Diana Trautwein                     IMG_5651

You can call her Pastor Diana, Mom, Nana, Honey or ‘hey you, with the white hair,’ “all of them are who I am,” Diana says. Married to Richard for over 50 years, mom to three amazing adult kids (and MIL to three perfect partners for each), grandmother to 8 (ages 8-27), Pastor in two congregations after midlife, occasional blog writer, monthly essayist at SheLovesMagazine.com, writer of 2 e-books and a monthly newsletter/photo journal, Diana is retired from pastoral ministry and offers spiritual direction in her Northern California home and via Skype/FaceTime.

Diana’s words can be found at www.dianatrautwein.  She’s also on Instagram, Facebook and “very occasionally” Twitter @drgtrautwein.

  1. Elizabeth Stewart                       me

Elizabeth Stewart is a young at heart 60-year-old who is passionate about making the rest of her life the best of her life and encouraging others to do the same. She is a whole-hearted Jesus follower who has been married to her pastor husband for over 40 years. She has three wonderful daughters, three great sons-in-law, and six amazing grandchildren. Elizabeth is active in teaching God’s Word and mentoring others in her Portland-area church and through their various outreach ministries.

She writes regularly on her personal blog, justfollowingjesus.com and weekly for Woman to Woman ministries, and is pursuing her interest in writing, her love of photography, and her passion for all things creative and beautiful.

4. Karen Swallow Prior             drPrior-52-edit-b

Karen Swallow Prior is Professor of English at Liberty University in Virginia, where her academic focus is British literature, with a specialty in the eighteenth century. She loves this period for its emphasis on philosophy, ethics, aesthetics, and community, as well as its efforts at correcting the universal human impulse to gravitate toward extremes.

Her writing appears at Christianity TodayThe AtlanticThe Washington PostFirst ThingsVoxThink Christian, The Gospel Coalition, Books and Culture and other places. She is the author of Booked, Literature in the Soul of Me (T. S. Poetry Press, 2012), and Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More–Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist (Thomas Nelson, 2014), and the forthcoming On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life through Great Literature (Brazos, 2018).

Karen and her husband live in rural Virginia with sundry dogs, horses, and chickens, where she is currently recuperating from being hit by a bus. That story is here. Although, judging from all her posts on Twitter, it hasn’t slowed her down much. 

5. Lancia Smith                                          Lancia 1 v6 4x6 fade

Lancia E. Smith is an author, photographer, teacher, and business owner based in northern Colorado. She is founder The Cultivating Project and editor-in-chief of Cultivating, the quarterly online magazine dedicated to encouraging and inspiring believers engaged in creative endeavors. A grateful lover of the Triune God and passionate about spiritual formation, Lancia teaches in conferences and workshops across the United States and in England.

She and her husband Peter run a thriving environmental and engineering firm and try to keep up with their rambling house and gardens in Colorado, called House on the Way. Lancia has been blogging and running websites since 2005 and writing since she could hold a pen.

6. Laurie Klein                              Laurie-Klein

Laurie Klein’s poetry and prose appear widely in Christian and secular journals, anthologies, audiobooks, music resources and recordings. She is the author of the classic praise chorus, “I Love You, Lord,” and the poetry collection, Where the Sky Opens (Poeima Poetry Series, Cascade). A past recipient of the Thomas Merton Prize for Poetry of the Sacred, Klein also served as co-founder/consulting editor for Rock & Sling: A Journal of Literature, Art and Faith (2003-2008).

These days, helping distracted, heart-weary people refocus on God in creative ways that spark hope and wholeness enlivens her, and inclusion in Jody’s company of women generates more grins than one aging face can hold.

Klein loves her life in the Pacific Northwest: family, friends, and an elderly Labrador, fierce crossword puzzles, too many books, gardening, travel, photography, exercise class, kayaking, collage, and calligraphy. Writing bios sharply reminds her that God works wonders, over time, through surrendered lives. Visit her at lauriekleinscribe.com.

7. Leslie Leyland Fields                         l l fields

Leslie Leyland Fields is the award-winning author/editor of ten books including the newest release, an anthology of essays, The Wonder Years: 40 Women Over 40 on Aging, Faith, Beauty and Strength.  She teaches and speaks around the world on writing, forgiveness, discipleship, parenting and faith.

Every September, she runs the Harvester Island Wilderness Workshop, a writing workshop on her island in Alaska, where this year she welcomes Ann Voskamp as her guest writer. Last year Leslie hit 60 and decided that age (along with her new neck wrinkles) is cause for humility, wonder, new friends and reckless joy! 

She blogs at leslieleylandfields.com where you can also find information about this September’s Workshop. 

8. Michele Morin                                  michele m

Michele Morin is a teacher, blogger, reader, and gardener in Maine who finds joy in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles.  She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for nearly 30 years, and together they have four sons, two daughters-in-love, two grandchildren, and one lazy St. Bernard.

Michele loves hot tea and well-crafted sentences, poems that stop her in her tracks and days at the ocean with the whole family.  She laments biblical illiteracy and advocates for the prudent use of “little minutes.”

She blogs at Living Our Days because “the way we live our days will be, after all, the way we live our lives.”  

9. Nancy Ruegg                             Nancy R

Nancy is mother to three grown children and Nana to three granddaughters.  She is a former Elementary school teacher (26 years) and has been writing on her blog since November 2012.  Nancy loves interacting with other online writers, offering encouragement and becoming friends, especially meeting these friends face to face.

She is in the process of self-publishing a Bible study, Weaving a Tapestry of Worship. Another Bible study, Catching a Glimpse of God’s Glory, is in the wings. “Years ago” she authored a devotional booklet for Haven Ministries, Children of the Heavenly Father. More recently one of her stories was published in the anthology, Abba’s Promise (Cross River Media, 2016). Reading, writing, Bible study, playing with grandchildren, coffee with friends, and the occasional craft project fill the many happy hours of her present life-chapter called retirement.

       You can find Nancy’s blog From the Inside Out here.  

10. Shelly Hunt Wildman              shelly h wildman

Shelly Wildman is a former writing instructor at Wheaton College and author of First Ask Why: Raising Kids to Love God Through Intentional Discipleship (Kregel). Shelly holds degrees from Wheaton College (BA) and University of Illinois at Chicago (MA), but her most important life’s work has been raising her three adult daughters.

She and her husband, Brian have been married for 33 years and live in Wheaton, IL. Shelly speaks to women’s groups in the Chicago area and spends much of her free time mentoring young women. When she has time, she loves to cook, read, and travel.

        You can catch up with Shelly here.