As July comes to a close, I continue to seek rest when I can. Poetry often offers respite, even when it spurs me to act. I found such rest—and prodding—through a poem by Shannon Perry in the current issue of SHARK REEF Literary Magazine. Here’s how it begins:
On Trump’s Election
by Shannon Perry
If I encounter knife-edged voices
I will remember cool water running
in a strong stream
I will let the water be my voice.
*Afterthoughts are my blog version of a practice followed in some Quaker meetings. After meeting for worship ends, people continue in silence for a few more minutes during which they’re invited to share thoughts or reflect on the morning’s worship. I’ve adopted the form here for last-day-of-the-month brief reflections on headlines, quotes, books, previous posts, maybe even bumper stickers.
Here’s a sentence I never imagined saying: “I’m having dinner with my publisher.” It seemed like a line I’d heard in a movie, but never expected to utter myself. But I did—or more like shouted it from rooftops, wrote it in emails, and posted it on Facebook when my publisher, Leslie Browning, invited me to dinner earlier this month.
An award-winning independent publisher ensuring the mainstream isn’t the only stream.
“It is our intention at Homebound Publications to preserve contemplative storytelling.”
prompted me to click on the link to Homebound’s website and continue reading.
Evidently I wasn’t the only visitor who wondered what the press means by “contemplative literature.”It’s explained in the company’s philosophy:
“In this throwaway-culture where we buy a book in the supermarket, read it over the weekend, and then toss it, we publish books that you will have on your nightstand for a few years and return to again and again—books that nourish your mind and soul.”
I started to feel prickles of excitement.
One of the strongest characteristics of my MFA program at Whidbey Writers Workshop was the emphasis on the profession of writing. Homebound’s view on the business of publishing was right in line with mine:
“So often in this age of commerce, entertainment supersedes growth; books of lesser integrity but higher marketability are chosen over those with much-needed truth but smaller audience. Here at Homebound Publications, we focus on the quality of the truth and insight present within a project before any other considerations.”
Discovering that the press’s books are printed on paper certified by forest sustainability programs, and it donates 1% of its annual net profits to charity, was the chocolate shavings on top of the whipped cream.
Homebound Publications justifiably claims it’s a small press with big ideas. It publishes between fifteen to twenty books each year and has almost seventy-five titles distributed worldwide. Over the years, its authors have received dozens of awards including: Foreword Reviews’ Book of the Year, Nautilus Book Awards, Benjamin Franklin Book Awards, and Saltire Literary Awards.
I didn’t lose any time checking out Homebound’s Submission Guidelines and soon sent the information and manuscript requested. That was in May 2015. I learned of the press’s desire to publish my memoir a couple of months later and soon after that, I had my first “meeting” with Leslie by phone. A month later, I signed a contract with the press with a publication date of Sept. 2017. Since then, Leslie and I have communicated regularly via email, a private Facebook page for authors, and Basecamp (an online project management tool). As promised in the contract, she’s consulted with me about important decisions (such as front and back cover design and interior design) and assisted in marketing and promotion.
Before our dinner, I’d gotten to know a good bit about Leslie through our ongoing virtual conversations and by reading her poems and novel. A proud native of New England, Leslie grew up in the small fishing village of Stonington, Connecticut. In her writing, she explores the confluence of the natural landscape and the interior landscape; her longtime study of philosophy, nature, and art is evident in the themes she explores through poetry and fiction.
In 2010, Leslie debuted with a three-title contemplative poetry series: Ruminations at Twilight, Oak Wise, and Barren Plain (here’s a sample of one of her poems, “Where the Story Left Off.”) Her most recent book, The Castoff Children, is a page-turning novel set in the wintry streets of 1850s Boston. A group of orphaned children struggles for survival in this cold world, finding their way together, with friendship, perseverance, and courage.
Leslie’s dedication to authors and readers is also evident in her service on the Board of Directors for both The Arts Café Mystic (a poetic arts venue in Mystic, CT) and Independent Book Publishers Association. And a milestone accomplishment for the press is Leslie’s recent agreement with Midpoint Trade Books to provide national distribution for all Homebound titles (you can see them all, including forthcoming books, in their 2017 catalog).
I won’t deny that I loved being “wined and dined” by my publisher at Imperial Restaurant. But the best part was spending time with someone I now consider a friend.
Parker Palmer is someone I often turn to for spiritual guidance. He’s a Quaker elder, educator, activist, and founder of the Center for Courage & Renewal. I’ve been reading his writing a lot lately (his wisdom about talking across ideological lines was the subject of my September 2016 Afterthought).
Now, a couple of months into the Trump administration, Parker wrestles with his feelings “…when it comes to this president and his staff who keep insisting that the emperor has new clothes, then blame and ban journalists for not telling the world how good he looks in them.” This is how his most recent post on the On Being blog begins:
I’m a Quaker. I stand in a religious tradition that asks me to live by such values as community, equality, simplicity, and non-violence. As a result, I frequently find myself in deep oatmeal — especially when it comes to politics, where I seem to have an anger management problem. Not long ago, a friend with whom I’d been having a heated political argument gave me a black t-shirt that says “One Mean Quaker.”
Does anger have a role to play in the life of someone who aspires to non-violence?
Parker goes on with much to ponder as he differs with the view that anger is “a spiritual flaw to be eliminated.” I’m examining my anger, too, so I’m spending some time with Parker’s words and hope you will, too. If you find commonality with what he has to say (or even if you don’t), you might want to read more of his weekly On Being columns.
I’ll end with Parker’s closing thought:
Spirituality and anger (and humor) are not necessarily at odds. Or so it seems to “One Mean Quaker” as I continue to stumble through life — well aware that, before too long, I’m likely to find myself in deep oatmeal again.
*“Afterthoughts” are my blog version of a practice followed in some Quaker meetings. After meeting for worship ends, people continue in silence for a few more minutes during which they’re invited to share thoughts or reflect on the morning’s worship. I’ve adopted the form here for last-day-of-the-month brief reflections on headlines, quotes, books, maybe even bumper stickers.
Quaker author and teacher, Marcelle Martin, wrote one of the most comprehensive, yet concise overviews of Standing Rock and the Water Protectors I’ve seen. The queries she poses and examples of numerous actions offer helpful guidance as I consider how to act.
Several people I know have made the journey to Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota, where thousands of Native Americans and their allies have been prayerfully endeavoring to protect the Missouri River from the dangers posed by the installation of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). From afar, I’ve been trying to follow news of what is going on there. I’ve found articles and videos from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, and other mainstream media. The reports that have most touched my heart, however, have been videos focusing on the Native people at Standing Rock, and first person accounts by other people of faith who have traveled there, including a member of my Quaker meeting. These stories have helped me piece together a picture of a courageous witness in a time when all of us need to ask: How is God calling me to act…