The Power of Children’s Story – Frederick Buechner

To step through the looking glass, to pass through the wardrobe into Narnia, to attend the birthday party of Bilbo Baggins is to reenter the world of childhood more fully than is possible any other way. It is not just a matter of being reminded how strange and new and promising everything was back then, but of experiencing it all over again.

Regardless of how many times you have read the books you loved as a child, the elements of surprise and suspense are always present, so that right up to the last minute you can believe that Scrooge will go on being miserly in spite of everything and that Dorothy may never find her way home.

To us, as to the child, the happy ending always comes as an unexpected gift from on high. It is the deepest truth that children’s books have to tell. Possibly it is the deepest truth there is. – Frederick Buechner


Reading Leads to Writing

unfinished story

A “Word Fitly Written” often begins with a word read. … Usually more than a word. An idea. A concept. Something that reaches from the written page into the soul and whispers a truth or invokes an emotion. Words read that inspire the writing of more words, the exploring of other truths, the creation of other emotions.

When I am inspired to write, it is most often a result of reading. Not everything I read urges me to write, but many things do. When I read something that mirrors my thoughts or exposes an undiscovered piece of my soul, I feel the need to explore it further. This naturally leads to writing about it.

The art of writing, someone once said, is the art of discovering what you believe. There is something enlightening, sometimes cathartic, at times painful, about writing. Especially when we are honest with our emotions and in our words.

This past year, 2014, I kept track of the books I read. It was the first time I ever wrote down the title of each book I read in a one-year period. At the beginning of the year, I also told myself that I would make a change, adopt a new habit, or try something new as a result of each book I read. In other words, I would not allow it to be mere words on paper, but I would strive to make them a part of me somehow. I would choose to develop and grow as a result.

I haven’t been so faithful in that, although I wrote down some good ideas and copied a few great quotes. I haven’t allowed myself enough time to reflect as I read. After all, it’s been a full year. A busy year. A good year.

In total, I read 50 books this year, almost 13,000 pages. Keeping track of them through Goodreads made a difference in helping me finish some of the books I began … as did the idea of reaching that “round number” of 50. “Meeting” some authors also helped.

I feel blessed to have discovered a few “new” authors, so often like reuniting with old friends. Every time a book, or a chapter, or a page inspires me to write a page, a chapter, or a book of my own, I am grateful. Grateful to the author who was the source of the inspiration, and to the Author of every life story, and the Source of all inspiration, creativity, and beauty.

Happy New Year! Happy Reading … Happy Writing.

Of Authors and Friendship

Reading a book on a hammockReading a book by an author you haven’t read in a while – a favorite author – is something like meeting an old friend. A good friend.

You smile and their face lights up. You shake hands or hug. You chat over your usual order, or sit in the back porch over lemonade and begin to catch up. And before you know it, or without even really realizing it, your conversation has plunged into deeper waters than you dare to go with the average acquaintance. And that’s why they’re such a good friend, because you don’t stay on the surface. (It’s clear to all of us that there is much more beneath the slight ripples, more in the heart and soul that somehow should and could be known if we cared enough or were brave enough to venture in.)

But with a good friend we do just that. It’s not, “Hello, how are you?” or, “Wow, that storm last week was a real gully washer.”

It’s not necessarily even, “My son failed his math class and I’m not sure he still wants to go to college.” Though it might start there, it goes deeper. Why that decision of your son makes you fear your parenting over the years hasn’t been enough, or that you have somehow enabled him, or disabled him through your own set of fears and hang-ups.

Whatever it is, it is not, “Everything is fine.” It’s truth. It’s honesty. It’s revealing questions you have and fears that loom, and situations that still threaten to overwhelm you. Somehow, when shared with a good friend, they seem not as much. Or a light shines so far away as to seem only a pinprick that could very well be an oncoming train for all you know but, for the moment illuminates your conversation just enough.

As a friend bestows a little light perhaps through words. Or perhaps through your own words, when you’re finally honest and brave enough to voice them, you realize what’s at the core of that thing you’re fearing or running away from. You’re finally at home enough to where you can be yourself and in your own skin.

And somehow, in a way, reading a book by a favorite author has a similar effect. (Or is it just me?) You smile at their audacity to put something in print that you never would have confessed in a hundred years. It gives you confidence that maybe it doesn’t really need to stay hidden. You smile at their choice of words or are completely awed by the way they seamlessly weave together a concept or thoughts that you’ve always felt or wondered or held deep inside.

You know, Hey, that’s me in there. In those pages.

And maybe, just maybe, somewhere in their heart. Somehow, in that way that doesn’t really make sense but doesn’t have to. Because truth is stranger than fiction. And the words we speak and the words we write are somehow are part of us that come from a place so deep that we don’t know exactly what’s going on down there.

Perhaps that’s one of the reasons I write. To figure out who else might understand or relate or wonder the same things I do.

And that’s why when I meet an author through the pages of a book new or old, I know I have made a friend. I know I can be myself with that person, when and if I ever meet them. That our conversation would venture beyond the “how are you” and “I hope your health is not affected negatively by all the smog in the air.” Because for so long, through their words, they have been a part of my life, like a friend is – no matter how near or far.

Through them, or because of them, I have the courage to be myself, which is often the very bravest the best and worst of us can be, to let a bit of all that flows beneath the surface slip out for a glimpse from time to time.

Have you “met” an author like that? Please leave a comment if you have a favorite author or two who are like that old friend or kindred spirit.