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 :)