Friday, August 23, 2019

A Literary Pilgrimage

I lamented a few years ago about missing Flannery, not being able to stop at Milledgeville, GA on our way to Memphis to see my brother. With our little Latin choir on a month-long break (a marriage, a new baby, a 25th anniversary) we thought to take a trip because our kids would be home to care for the pets and plants. It'd also be the first time we'd be celebrating without them--yes we are getting used to being just-the-two-of-us and it's lovely :)

When I suggested a literary pilgrimage to Flannery's homes in Savannah and Milledgeville, Michael was completely on board. Just the previous year he'd read some of her stories and discussed them in the Friday morning Men's group Msgr. McInerny runs. What a joy for us to be in her home, see her things, go to hear Mass where she did (every day). I am quite sure she is a saint in heaven now and asked her to pray for us.

Savannah was simply beautiful--a lot like Charleston, really. I suspect we'll be back for day trips and Flannery fixes. And the Cathedral is called the Sistine of the South. And rightly so. I enjoyed the drive up to Milledgeville along the country roads, holding hands with my love. Learned some of M'ville's history on a trolley tour. It was once the capital of Georgia.

Georgia Military College and St. Stephen's Episcopal Church were two of my favorite places. The roof of the church is like an upside-down boat and the remains of some are interred in the church itself (very much an ancient Catholic tradition)--note the coffin below the pipes!  

I was captivated by these curved stairs (marvelous engineering and workmanship) and the dollhouse of the Brown-Sanford house--I would've loved to spend more time in that child's room playing. Alas, I did the grown up thing and took a picture.

After the history lesson, we were finally ready to visit Andalusia, the farm where Flannery wrote most of her stories. She thought she'd have to leave to write, but her illness--lupus--forced her back home, where she arranged her routine thusly: upon waking, reading from her breviary, having coffee with her mother, then heading to Sacred Heart Catholic Church for daily Mass. Breakfast upon their return and writing from nine to noon. She'd be tired and so retired for a nap, but she'd receive visitors in the afternoon. And if not visiting, she'd be writing letters, painting, or tending to her birds. In the evening, reading again. You can see how much of her life and observations are in her stories when you visit M'ville. Her characters too :)  


I cannot express to you how moving it was to be in the room where she spent much of her time--reading, writing, sleeping, suffering. Michael and I both instinctively clasped our hands to offer a prayer for her. She's taught me so much, especially Romans 5:20 Where sin abounded, grace abounded all the more
Her stories are violent and most people have a strong reaction to them--you'll either love them or hate them. I first discovered her writing when someone said my short story, Driving Lessons, was like hers. Not knowing her work I decided to read a couple of stories. I thought them strange and unsettling. I returned the book to the library. Fast forward a few years--after our conversion I remembered her stories (they are unforgettable!) and a lightbulb went on in my head. Grace! It's all about grace. Since then I've read many of her stories, her letters, her essays, my favorite being Mystery and Manners. I'm really enjoying the book of her cartoons right now. Each is a witty gem. Did you know she thought she might be a political cartoonist before she shifted to stories? I wonder what she'd say about our times. I'm sure the people whom she'd satirize would squirm.

It was so lovely to hear Mass at Sacred Heart on Friday afternoon along with a couple dozen young people. A young lady on crutches clomped up to the first pew on the left and I wondered then where Flannery and her mother sat--perhaps on the same pew where we did? The priest offered a beautiful Mass and preached on Christian marriage (the Gospel was about divorce and why Moses allowed it, but from the beginning it was not so, begins our Lord). I felt so complete right there with Michael, both of us in love with each other and with Jesus. It really does take Three to Get Married! On our way home we stopped by the beautiful and peaceful cemetery. Requiescat in pace, dear Mary Flannery.  

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Local Friends

Local friends, If you or anybody you know would like some of these school books or sports stuff, contact me. Most items are for $20 except for APChem and the Genesis set (I'll take $80 for them). Let me know. And thanks.


Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Summer Reading

I suppose I'm late in posting this since school started this week but here are my picks published in the STAR. I'll miss working with Joe Benton but he's retiring after nearly two decades as editor. I've enjoyed his reminiscences so very much and I hope one day will write a memoir, accompanied with his beautiful photographs.

We still have a week more with the kids--so happy they won't be starting until Sept. (a first since we moved to SC). They're organizing and listening to our old albums--remember these ancient things? 

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Tongue-Tied, Conferences, and Quiet

I've been sitting on this news for FIVE years!!! TONGUE-TIED is finally out. Isn't it pretty? I love it. It's my memoir for kids about stuttering. It's part of Heinemann's Fountas & Pinnell series of leveled books for classroom use. 

This book also has my first art (calligraphy). See the writing in Hindi? I wrote one stanza of the poem Jhansi ki Rani, the one I mention in the text. If you want to know the story, check out this movie Manikarnika: Queen of Jhansi. Note, it's violent, so definitely not for kids who aren't at least teenagers.

I am thrilled because I can finally include Tongue-Tied in the memoir workshops that I'm offering this September at Write 2 Ignite Conference (Sept. 20-21) and the Carolinas SCBWI Conference (Sept. 27-29). I would love to see you there, so please prayerfully consider coming to these wonderful conferences for children's writers.  

I've been unusually quiet because as I prepare to begin a new phase in my life without the day-to-day care of kids (yes, even teenagers need it), I've been evaluating how I use my time, and I'm sad to say that half of it is dissipated in the shallows. I've discussed this before when we bought the first cell phone for Max (he was 15). He had to read The Shallows by Nicholas Carr first so that he knew the dangers a smart phone and all that connectivity posed. Last year, I inherited Dagny's cell phone and I've seen how easy it is to spend 30 min scrolling through Facebook. I must admit that when I'm in the backseat of the car, it is the only way I can distract myself from her driving. But she too, is leaving home, so there's no need.

I've been practicing Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport for the past month and I highly recommend it. He lays out the groundwork for how to reorient your life around the things you care deeply about. And because I care deeply about writing books that matter and music that elevates the heart and soul to God, I bought a copy of his Deep Work. It is brilliant. I am, in essence, retraining my brain to work deeply. I am working on my lectures for Sept. and I want to be So Good They Can't Ignore Me (another one of Cal's titles I've amended slightly--isn't it just the best?). I doubt I will continue to use Facebook. I don't like the format even after three years and the benefits are too small compared to the noise it creates in my head. The blog will remain. I enjoy it tremendously. 

I have been reading other good books. Loved Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo. Beautiful, powerful writing. A story that will resonate with many teenagers, especially those who are questioning their faith. And I'm getting ready to dive into a couple more good books, and the beach too :)

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

My First National Right to Life Convention

Wow!!! It was amazing and I feel so blessed that the National Right to Life convention came to Charleston, that Michael and I could attend and learn to fight the good fight from seasoned veterans, some who've been at this for nearly 50 years. There were so many practical suggestions on speaking the truth in love, being salt and light, being a voice for those who have none, and so many personal stories. What is clear is that abortion is going to take center stage in the 2020 election. Already some states are passing laws to restrict abortion. Only 13% of Americans want unrestricted abortion through all nine months of pregnancy, yet many states, like VA, OH, and others are following a NY-style abortion proposal. The time has come to return the legal protection babies in the womb enjoyed before Roe v Wade.   There were many young people there as well--our future! The first right is the right to life, without which all other rights--for education, for health, for religious freedom--are moot. Here are some of the highlights.

The convention opened with Viable, a one-act play written by John Hoover. In this story, Judy meets her own daughter whom she aborted 30 years ago. We see and hear the unintended consequences of Judy's secret abortion--the sorrow, the rage, the despair (Judy's performance was electric!)--all because she believed the lies that were fed to her. But there is healing in Christ and Judy, restored, is able to take the message of His love to her husband and her second daughter, living, who is pregnant and considering an abortion. Watching this play made me realize how much I want Bound to be a movie, so that it can reach more people. I'd best start small, like writing a short play. The link for Viable has all the information if you want to bring it to your school or church. Please spread the word. It is beautiful.  

Michael and I both like numbers and data, but there was so much, we decided to get the book. One of the authors is  a physicist who's been collecting abortion data in his spare time for the past few decades and archiving his findings here. What a labor of love, of remembering. Abortion Worldwide Report: 1 Century, 100 Nations, 1 Billion Babies is a book for people who are interested in some hard data, in history and ethics, and in the nature of law and its purpose in protecting human life. From 1803-1919, every nation with a known policy prohibited abortion (see the map that's mostly blue). A hundred years later, abortion is legal almost everywhere (see colorful map below) leading to the deaths of a billion babies. It's clear we need to stop the slaughter of the innocents.   


Dagny was stunned when I told her about abortion survivors. She asked, "Is it even possible?" and the answer is yes. Melissa Ohden is one remarkable survivor who was born alive after her mother had a saline abortion. Her birth records indicate that she had an Apgar score of 6, not bad for a baby floating in a toxic saline solution for five days. After five minutes, though her score plummeted to a 2. She was nearly dead. She might've perished had not a nurse taken care of resuscitating her. She is an advocate for babies in the womb and for those born alive and in danger of neglect. Her story is so inspiring as is the testimony of others, like Gianna Jessen, who've survived. Many have been adopted into loving homes. I loved what Joleigh Little had to say about "unwanted children." That they simply haven't found their family yet. Adoption is a wonderful alternative to abortion. Many couples are on waiting lists for babies. But if you are being called to adopt, don't forget the older children and those with special needs. They often languish. One of Michael's colleagues went through the foster care system; she's made it her life's work to adopt several of the "hard-to-adopt" children. God bless her.    

Although abortion is the biggest killer, there were sessions on euthanasia as well. It was heartbreaking to hear of veterans and people suffering from cancer and other chronic ailments denied treatment but offered pills to commit suicide. This is a direct result of the abortion culture. Once killing is accepted as an answer to human suffering, then there's no stopping. And the medical industry can kill people without judicial review. The NRTL recommend you prepare a Will to Live.

There was so much more, but let me end with a story about Ashley Bratcher, the actress who plays Abby Johnson in Unplanned. Ashley had never heard of Abby but someone on social media told Ashley to audition for the part and only after that someone followed up with her, did she audition. We know Ashley got the part :) She was moved by the full script and read everything she could about Abby. Only Ashley's husband, son, and sister knew why she'd flown out to OK (for filming). So when her mother called, Abby told her what the movie was about and wanted to make sure her mom knew she wasn't judging her for having an abortion in high school. "There is hope and redemption," she said. Her mom wept. And then confessed that at 19, she went to a clinic to get an abortion, but she walked out. "I chose you." Talk about a Jeremiah moment. I love how wonderfully creative God is in writing our stories!!! God bless you all.