A chunk of stone struck by an artist may appear damaged and degraded. With swift chisel he wields insult, marring the line, forcing a shadow, laying a plane. From side to side he moves, his knowing eye eternally judging. Finally the piece is finished, glowing in lustrous beauty. The artist stands aside, the masses pass before it and weep. Wrenched from the quarry heap has emerged a masterpiece; a statement, a message, a sermon.from A Thousand Pieces by S. J. Buxton
I am but a pilgrim, a rather pitiful one at that, certainly not a sage. So when an isolated few pitch honor my way by consulting me and by speaking of my wisdom, I cringe, for of my extreme incompetence am I aware. I shudder, really I do, to consider what a mess this world is in if I am among the wise, except perhaps if it is understood that I am standing on the bottom rung of such a group. For I easily recall the thinness of the pool of wisdom from which I draw.
At least in one thing, however, do I admit to wisdom, that one thing being the acknowledgement of the wonder and the glory of dawn–the awakening to one more day on this earth.
From my unpublished novel, THE SOUL OF ABRAM CLARK
Fingers of dawn began their scribble over the dark sky, and the sun pulled up the edge of night so that paint of pink and blue filled the sky. Now between the trees could be seen the changeling sky, as its fresh self took to the day, its glow serving to note one more night’s survival.
. . .and from another chapter.
He moved along the trail and now a hint of rising sun played on the canyon walls, the inky blue of midnight having grayed to dawn. A watercolor pallet of sunrise threw its tones about the walls and the hues of the rock named the light and became burnt tangerine and creamy raspberry. Abram snapped the shutter of his camera with such rapidity the buffer filled and he must stop to let the processor catch up. By the second, the light changed and the monuments and temples of stone moved forward and backward as the sun rose ever higher, and shadows came, and then reformed.
Few persons had risen so early. The quiet trail led to a widening of the canyon where in a spot that claimed a panoramic view a bench had been placed. Abram sat. A haunting mood took him and he knew the throaty notes of a flute should whisper, or should be heard the plucked strings of a harp.
Then the sun tipped all the way over the eastern edge of the vista and the sky striped itself crimson. Ice glittered on the trees and a veritable world of magic had been struck.
More than a year ago, I finished the first draft of this novel and made feeble attempts to get the attention of an agent and/or a publisher with no positive results. (My attempts were so feeble that, sorry to say, I didn’t even follow up on all leads I was given. 😦 See I told you I’m not very wise.) Since then the book has been simmering in my mind, on the hard drive of my MacBook, and printed out on white pages, punched, and inserted into a leather binder. Today, I finished one more draft and believe I have polished the book to the highest sheen of which I am capable. The book is an excellent one, and I plan to try to get it published.
Would love to hear feedback from you!
“I don’t know. Around here somewhere. I hear him.”
I heard him also and decided to investigate. Found him in the dining room eating . . . a book. From the time he was small he has been fascinated by books, paper, and pens. Chews and eats them all.
He had climbed onto a hassock, cleared half a shelf of books, knocked them to the floor, and with his sharp white teeth had destroyed an expensive, old book. I scolded him, cleaned up the mess, rearranged all the books, and got out the vacuum cleaner to finish the job. He lay silently and watched my activities, offering up the distinct look of a chastened soul, which look, I have come to believe, may be contaminated with a hefty portion of hypocrisy.
Later in the day, again I could not find him. Neither could Jerry. We looked everywhere, including the floor-level shelf in the dining room that he had claimed as a tiny pup for a sleeping place, and from which long ago I had cleared all books. He was not there. I called him loudly. Nothing. We began the search again, looking under things and again outside. I lingered in the dining room when I went there another time. Something out of place caught my eye.
A dark object had wedged himself behind the books on the shelf. The same shelf. The one he had cleared out earlier in the day.
“Winston, why didn’t you answer me? What are you doing in that book shelf?”
He opened his sleepy eyes a bit wider, but said not a word.
The rascal. As I rearranged the books before I lifted him off the shelf, he drifted off to sleep again.
I suppose I should be impressed with owning such an intellectual pup, but to tell the truth, I sometimes wish he preferred one of his balls or a chew toy over books, pens and papers.
Although I could not see it, of course, I am sure that marked across my face was a map of bewilderment as the svelte young woman smiled and handed across the table a package.
“For you,” she said, her face fired with kindness and good will.
“Why? What is this?” I answered, as my hand reached in a tentative way to take the gift.
“It’s for you. Open it.”
I was puzzled. We were in a San Diego restaurant near the bay in National City with my son Andrew and his family. Earlier in the day we had spent several hours with them at their home, had left to go to our motor home for a while, then we would meet for dinner. My birthday was months past, it was not Mothers Day, nor our anniversary…….what was this?
“Open it,” Shawnna said.
The gift was wrapped artistically in brown craft paper with a bow tied around of some kind of black floppy material. I began the unpeeling as everyone looked on, and it came to be one of the most touching gifts I have ever received. You must know the back story to understand.
During the earlier hours that we had spent at Andrew’s and Shawnna’s, I had been fascinated by a cookbook she owned, had looked at every page, and had taken the better part of an hour to copy down the recipe for yeast donuts, and for pizza dough. (Later, a discussion arose as to whether writing down such a recipe is a copyright infringement . . . but that issue must be reserved for another day. I may be guilty of breaking the law!)The book is fabulously illustrated and I was riveted by it. It happens that I follow the blog of Ree Drummond, the author of the great cook book, Food From My Frontier, and other books.
I read the card first, then, . . . now in my hand, appearing as I tore away the brown paper was Shawnna’s beloved book. I weep now as I write, for also a part of the back story is that Shawnna and Andrew have gone through many rough years financially, in their ministry, and even physically. I know well of their struggles. I was deeply touched.
On occasion, a moment comes to us–a gleaming, a glow as from the cherished Northern Lights, or as brilliant flares from such as the Hope Diamond. It illuminates our soul and kicks away at the muck and darkness that fold about us as we trudge through life, then settles down into a deep permanent crevice in our brains. Kind of carried away by the mere gift of a used cookbook, aren’t you, I hear someone say, and resolutely I answer no, for of such moments is the beauty of this world revealed: Eden restored.
Some of my family have been visiting us here in Crestline, including Brady who is ten years old. Today I was polishing a lamp table on which rests a book in which house guests sometimes write notes.
A thing may appear simple and inconsequential to one person, but is called priceless by another. This page addressed to me sets among the latter category.
Hey, here we are. I’m excited that Chila Woychik has agreed to spend an hour or so here on my site with all of us who are hunkered around our screens across the United States and maybe even into other parts of the world. We’re an eager, inquisitive bunch–we writers and publishers–and that shifting in the air outside my windows here in Crestline, CA. just may be anticipation and enthusiasm filtering in from you. A few words on the format/procedure. I will ask Chila Woychik for beginning comments, and she will respond. After her initial words, please join in with any questions you have. I have a long list of questions and I’m sure you do also. It would be great to hear from all of you–at least to know you’re there, and to know where you live. I’m certain we’ll all be polite and respectful of everyone’s opinions, even when they may differ from our own.
Chila M. Bradshaw-Woychik is the owner of what has been referred to as an “exceptional midwest small press.” Port Yonder Press publishes both mainstream and religious books in a number of genres. Though small and young, PYP has already been the recipient of several literary awards, among them the Spur Awards, Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards, Westerners international Fred Olds Poetry Award, Grace Award, and Selah Book of the Year Award.
Chila has written many articles and short stories, has been widely published, and has released at least one book. ON BEING A RAT resides on my Kindle and is beautifully written–a touch sassy, a touch brilliant. She refers to those particular writings as lyric essays and vignettes. I bring you one line from the introduction: “I’d lay my pen on the tiny porch outside my door and let the sun renew it with words.” Exquisite writing.
Welcome Chila. Before I turn you loose, though, I have one question: Did you bring Dudley? If not, why not?
I suspect there may be several with us today who are not familiar with you and your work. Please tell us as much–or as little–as you wish about yourself. A smattering of background, how you happen to be a publisher, a little about your heart–your vision.
You’re here. This is the right place for the interactive interview with Chila M. Bradshaw-Woychik of Port Yonder Press. Monday, February 18th–that’s today! She is the owner of what has been referred to as an “exceptional midwest small press.” Port Yonder Press publishes both mainstream and religious books in a number of genres.
The time is 8:00 pm central, which of course is 6:00 here on the west coast. We’ll be talking for an hour or so–open “mic”–and I’m hoping you’ll all join in. Know established writers or beginning writers or “wanna-be writers”? Let them know of this event, please
Please pass the word: Coming up in a few hours here at www.writenow.wordpress.com. Have your questions ready.
4:30 PST Monday The blog interview will start precisely at 6:00–not in this post, but in the one following. Thank you for standing by–eager to jump in.
Usually when I write a column I am sure of the material, whether it is a work I will reference, or opinions and observations rallied from my own brain. This is neither, and in the beginning here–rather the beginning of the publishing part, for the subject has squeaked about my mind for several days, so this could hardly be called the beginning–I anticipate difficulty in presenting my argument in a cogent and convincing manner. (Hardly a grand opening for such a piece, some would say–I hear you now, and I respond: At least I am aware of the shortfall.)
My argument circles about the genre designation of novels–in particular of a manuscript that is scratching to become such a book, and to which I have a distinct connection, seeing I authored the said, eager manuscript. The manuscript is finished and ready for the market. The work is well-done, likely a cut above the average recently published novel, and, with the assistance of both a compelling agent and a skillful editor may possess the force to become a finely wrought piece of literature. Then, too, because I am honest and practical, I recognize such a scenario may be only “an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato,” words Dickens placed in the mouth of Scrooge for saying to old Marley as Scrooge considered whether or not he was seeing a specter.
By the study of agent and book publishers submission processes I have determined there is one (possibly two) genres into which my novel falls: Christian (overt Christianity allowed), but not the Christian which allows only covert Christian thought, and probably not literary because of the overt Christian content. Crossover? Possibly, except the overt Christian tone may preclude this. Not sure.
Which leads to my biggest question–and frustration. Why is there such a genre as Christian? To be logical, should there not also be genre of agnostic, atheist, Buddhist, Muslim, and every other spiritual thought? If my book is spy thriller, YA, sci-fiction, or slipstream can it not also be Christian? Of more puzzlement to me are houses which take covert Christian themes, but not overt.
A radiant drama with redemption as its theme, Christianity flares an enchanting vision of hope that appeals to the masses, for inherently we sense our need of a savior. The creed is the sensation; the plot confounds us, hinged on a solitary character. From antiquity, Christianity has influenced art, as a walk through any major gallery will reveal. Mythology, too, swarms with redemptive themes, yet much of it has been crafted through dark pagan worship.
The embodiment of Christianity takes in the great themes of repentance, forgiveness, redemption, resurrection, and renewal. Are these not arguments with which moving novels may be constructed? Should not writers have the latitude to fashion literary works with obvious Christian roots and have those same works regarded with such favor as the writing itself demands?
My overtly Christian manuscript is not gorged with light-weight characters who grip the bible as a club to beat about the heads of sinners, nor is it strewn with shabby altar calls or wild-eyed prophets who stand on street corners with doom day signs. Yet, I believe, because the the bible teaches so, of strange prophets, of weeping repentance, and even of The Savior, who incensed by the graft of vendors, plaited a whip and raged through the temple.
My overtly Christian manuscript showcases a godly, successful minister who succumbs to ugly sin. The story shimmers with relevant truth as he claws his way from a pit of almost unimaginable depth. My protagonist Abram reveals Christianity to be cooling water for one parched with thirst.
An excerpt follows, a scene in which Abram considers his sin.
Abram threw back the cover. With quiet steps so as not to wake Sten whose snoring told of sound sleep, Abram went down the stairs, opened the front door and stood on the porch. For long minutes he watched the slash of rain and listened to the beat of its rhythm. The wind shrieked and canted, blowing across his face.
Then, as a crazed man, he took to the yard and stood, head tucked, surrender, a slave on the block, a prisoner for the whip. Prisoner? A shred of book memory called up an iron piece, a bit in human mouth, a chain of finest design that clanked men together and then they must hip-hop into the fields. A master called out Nigger.
Abram recalled the words of David. . .
wash me with hyssop. Cleanse me of mine iniquities.
He tried to say the words. He tried to be David, but he could not. His tongue cleaved to the roof of his mouth. The words lugged in his throat, snagged by the roots of his tongue. They would not come.
A new bolt of lightening careened over the landscape. Thunder cracked near, and yet he stood.
I believe my book has the potential to be a literary crossover. I need feedback. I want to hear from agents and publishers and will appreciate any guidance you may have for me. Thank you.
The Soul of Abram Clark
I do not plan to self-publish this work, so my immediate task is to find an agent, and/or a publisher. The task is daunting, and I say with all candor that I expect the book will never be published.
In my opinion, the book is of excellent quality, well-written, intriguing, and of a timely subject. I believe it to be worthy of commercial publishing, although I quite understand it is impossible for me to judge that–others must take on that task.
Why then, if you judge the book exceptional, do you say you expect the book to never be published? someone will surely ask. The answer lies with the odds in book publishing. Listen to these words of Larry Brooks from his very fine site: “… for every novel only one out of every 2000 novels written finds a publisher. And of those that do, the vast majority will have gathered more than a few rejection slips along the way.” Mr. Brooks is not alone in his assessment; all people in the publishing field agree that the chance of selling a book by an unknown author is miniscule.
However, I will move toward publication. While being realistic in my expectations, and while remembering the odds, I plan to take all reasonable steps to have my novel published.
My immediate steps are as follows:
1. Compose compelling query letter.
2. Locate and query agents who are interested in the type of book I have written.
3. Locate and query publishers who are interested in the type of book I have written, and who will accept a manuscript from a writer with no agent.
4. Perfect the first 50 pages of my manuscript. (Typically, an interested agent wants to see this much of the manuscript.)
5. Write compelling back-cover material.
6. Have the manuscript read by a few select people.
7. Begin work on second draft of the complete book . . . then a third . . . then a fourth . . .fifth. . .
Would you like to help me?
I need an agent. Do you have any contact with one, or do you know the brother-in-law of one, or the second cousin once removed of your Aunt Lucy who once was in publishing, or did you hear a friend speak of a friend of a friend who . . .? You get the idea I’m sure.
From time to time through this process, I will publish parts of the novel, as I have done once before. No spoilers, though.
From a couple of pages into chapter 1
Landy moved with the stream of people who headed toward the exit doors. Then, among the crush, Grady Tomes stood before her and extended his hand. She stopped and smiled at the man as the crowd moved around the couple. He was a balloon, puffed up, weaving back and forth with importance. His hand in hers was a round of mush, white and soft. His orbed head was pink with a jagged line of fine white hair that circled around. The edges were damp. His aqua eyes bulged, set over by tufts of brows, as though cotton strands from boles had been stuck on. His mouth was red; his lower lip wet and large.
Landy saw that his clothes were of fine cut and that they had been pressed with skill. The shoes on his small feet were glossy, and in the middle of each ended a pant leg, creased knife-blade sharp.
Landy looked at his rotund middle as he bent toward her. Beads of sweat threatened to spill on her. “Landy, my dear, so excellent to see you here.”
“And you, also, Brother Tomes.”
He dropped her hand, turned, and moved through the people. He did not genuflect right and left as though before an adoring crowd, he only appeared to do so.
The reason I am so emotional about this part of my writing, I have concluded, is that although most of us have quite different backgrounds–and different outcomes–than does Richard in my novel-in-progress, we all have parts of us that have suffered extreme distress. We relate to his fears. For deep inside us, there is a secret place which we keep hidden from the world–sometimes even from ourselves. So when we read (or write) of the anxiety of others, we weep.
Conclusion of chapter 10
Richard crossed one arm over the other, and gripping himself into a cocoon he began to rock back and forth. His hands were clawed into a clench so that Sten could see the hardness of tendon and of pulsing vein. He moaned as he pitched and rolled: He was an unlit night, the dirge of a lone bagpiper on stark hill. His cry was a requiem to that unknown line of forebears who had taken to broken road, and who had given to despair and to neglect.
No one should know such agony, Sten thought as he watched the suffering of his friend. It was an epiphanic time, for at once Sten knew the room had become a birthing space. It was creation; it was a genesis. A new Richard was emerging.
Richard eased to the floor now, wrapped in himself, the keening from his mouth the sound of emergence.