Last fall when the sky was cobalt blue and leaves were brilliant, flaming shades of amber and maroon (as they are wont to be here in the Pacific Northwest) I stole away for an overnight writing retreat. My goal was to cobble together a year’s worth of poetry that hadn’t seen the light of day in print since my first book of poetry was self-published.
Rather than languishing on the page, I wanted to be intentional about gathering this random group of poems together with an eye towards publication, this time submitting them to an actual press, leaving the heavy lifting that surrounds publishing to the professionals. I knew if I had an actual destination in mind for the work, the words would make their way out of the journals and folders where they’d been hiding.
Several weeks later when the draft was finished, I emailed it to a friend, a professor/ poet/editor, and asked to enlist her services to edit my manuscript. I told her what I had in mind and she agreed to tackle the project in between her teaching breaks. We set a soft deadline for returning her thoughts to me as Thanksgiving, which then turned into the Christmas holidays and finally January. Because life.
When we finally connected over Zoom, I’d had time to read her emailed thoughts ahead of time. As I glanced at her takeaways, I was stunned with the serendipitous hand of God in the whole endeavor. Jennifer had managed to grasp the heart of what I have been saying in and out of all my work, divining the subconscious purpose and message I was unaware of until I read it in black and white.
Because sometimes you don’t know what you think until you write it out loud.
My heart literally exhaled (if that’s a thing. That’s a thing, right?) at the perspective she brought, reading between the lines a theme that ran like a ribbon through my words. The Big Picture view she provided offered me a telescope of sorts to see my work from afar.
“Yes!” I thought. You’ve nailed my thoughts exactly.”
We landed on several section themes and an overarching message to communicate what I was trying to say. The writer’s mantra proved true: we most often write the book we need.
Jen suggested several titles and I landed on “Mining the Bright Birds: Poems of Longing For Home,” taken from one of the poems.
It seems I have always been longing for home, Heaven to be sure, but also a place where presence with God is a tangible, everyday thing. Ecclesiastes says God has set eternity in our hearts; we are all crafted for a kingdom somewhere else, the place where God dwells. And, as I journey towards the center of God’s presence in the here and now I’m discovering more clearly who I am.
The Skin Horse in the Velveteen Rabbit is right–it takes a long time to become real.
Not the actual cover, my suggestions for the publisher
I began to notice that much of my scribbled poetry and journal writing is a reflection of walking a daily pathway to discovery not only of who God is, but who I am and what He has made me to do and be. Much of what I write that ended up in this manuscript deals with trusting God in this journey, taking His hand one day at a time. And the One Day at a Time message is one I need, constantly reminding me of my need to resist the pull of straining towards a future I can’t see and the need to be present in the Right Now, where God is.
Because He is present only in the present.
My Manuscript’s Journey
In April, after Jen’s capable edits and inputs, I took my tied up little manuscript, crafted a proposal and sent it in to a publisher. Four weeks later I heard back from them: “We would like to offer you a contract to publish Mining the Bright Birds.”
Um, wow. I’ve been around the Christian writing and publishing arena long enough to know that book proposals can be repeatedly rejected and it takes months to get a reply. I was very surprised. The press I submitted to has five different imprints and while I was not chosen for the one I wanted, I found I am in good company with other authors and titles.
There is a lot of paperwork involved when signing a book contract. Yesterday I finally sat down to actually sign it. Woohoo! With my husband’s Indiana Jones hat in the background. Keepin’ it real, friends.
Among the many contract items I was asked to address was crafting a synopsis of the book in 200 words or less. Tell a writer to write anything in 200 words or less. Ha.
But I did it.
So here you are dear reader, prepared for the back cover–a synopsis of Mining the Bright Birds: Poems of Longing for Home
“The manner in which we chart our lives is less a straight line on a calendar of days and more a song cycle moving upward into the future, circles growing closer as we move towards the center, where God is. Ecclesiastes declares we are made for a longing towards Heaven, our true home, and so we journey, often in the dark.
Signposts offer safety and comfort, from the miraculous and mundane—birdsong, the somnolence of Creation’s winter and the surprise of every Spring. The familiar sight of a favorite chair, the way sunlight falls in the same place each morning all helps mark time as we cycle through the days.
The poems in Mining the Bright Birds: Poems of Longing for Home reflect this circular, upward journey, one of changing and growth. The closer we move towards God, the more like ourselves we become.
The invitation to discover our deepest longings is often a call to lean into the many ways we express ourselves—as poet or painter or simply a person whose hand holds onto our Creator’s on the pathway home.
Mining the Bright Birds offers a glimmer of light to shine the way.”
As I was writing this summary, the Holy Spirit revealed a message to communicate with my readers, which was really a message for me. We quite often write the book that we need.
Here’s to our journey towards home.
MBB (as it is affectionately titled in my computer folders) is slated to be released near the end of 2023. Also, rather miraculous. And unnerving. If you were forwarded this post by a friend or want to stay in touch with further updates about my book, launch team or release date, please consider signing up HERE to get the latest news.