Sunny Days in Heaven
Spiritual/Political/Philosophical Blog on the Nature of Truth and Falsehood and Heaven

Monday, June 14, 2004  

Last nail in the coffin

I have received the latest rejection letter for my little book, Brightness Springs. I have no more people I can send the book to in the hope that they might agent or publish it.

When I attended the Catholic Writers' Conference in Tucson last February, it was to gain some hopeful contacts, and expose other Catholic writers to my book.

I gave away a free copy to all the attendees, 50 or so people. Of those, three women actually said they read the book. One commented on the style of the writing, and two said they loved it. The two women who "got" it, were not of the kind of so many of the other women there (the conference was about 4/5's women writers). They were people who tend to focus on the sweet, the poignant, and sincere aspects of life as being the most glorious, joyful, and fulfilling. Whereas the more clever tend to celebrate complicated, ambiguous, ironic, sardonic, and unresolveable thoughts and feelings.

The great majority of ladies were more "literary" minded aiming at a feelingly sophisticated, precious and self-referential manner in their tastes and prose. Kathleen Norris' books would be their model. This writing tends toward the therapeutic, where the writer looks for healing through close, emotional temperature taking. The ego is always the main character, not God.

Well, in Brightness Springs, Mystery is the main character, and it works.

But from the counsel of one man who works in publishing, I received three names of agents and an editor whom I should submit my work to, using his name as an entree.

Well, the third person completed the trifecta of rejection today with the usual form letter.

And I am thoroughly disgusted with the world or the worldly. Brightness Springs is a simple story, but it isn't simplistic. It takes great ability to create art that is pure, simple, and profound. It is a knife edge to walk between the pathetic and bathetic (and avoid didacticism) when creating simple works of beauty that richly reward imagination.

Jesus' Prodigal Son parable is the finest example of perfection in a pure and simple tale. But think about how easily it could devolve into cheap melodrama and bathos (and often has in various retellings or imitations -- see Touched by an Angel.)

Brightness Springs is, essentially, a conversion story, but hides that theme in a rich cloak of mystery, revelation, insight, wonder, joy, and in pictures and ideas which are marvelous.

To dislike this little book is to dislike Peter Pan, the Lord of the Rings, the Odyssey, C.S. Lewis, for there is little of all of those in this little tale of mine.

But my critics are so focused on being "wise and learned" that the kingdom of heaven plumb evades them, and a humble and contrite heart seems beyond their ken.

Aside and Digression

One of the things I noticed about the Catholic (and Christian) publishing world is how much explaining goes on, and very little improvement that occurs.

For instance, many people will write books on prayer: their experiences, and what it meant to them. A person reading it can fall into the warm glow of the author's reveries, and come away with an idea that prayer is a pleasant and entertaining foreign land, but too much trouble to visit.

In other words, one gets a map of the territory and a self-satisfied feeling of knowing something they don't actually know.

There are thousands and thousands of books being published on prayer, but more people aren't praying, nor learning the territory as they might if simply guided by the Holy Spirit. Publishers are making some money, writers make a little (but get bragging rights as published authors, an important credential), but no one is really learning from God.

They learn a little from this fellow or that lady who write 250 pages to say, prayer is meaningful, sometimes difficult, but often rewarding. Jesus and Paul both tells us to pray constantly, and tell us that God will show us how - so how many thousand tomes of sincere self-reverence do we need?

Few. Very few.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 1:59 PM |