I am absolutely thrilled to have a guest author with us today.
Douglas Bond is the author of more than 30 books of historical fiction biography division and practical theology. Bond is director of the Oxford Creative Writing masterclass, and the Carolina Creative Writing masterclass. He has served as adjunct instructor in church history and Creative Writing at three institutions of higher learning, and leads church history tours in Europe. He is the father of six children and eleven and counting grandchildren.
It’s a delight to be here. Thank you.
I always love to ask our guests: What is one book in addition to the Bible that has significantly impacted you in some way?
It’s very hard to narrow that down. I can say that as a boy. I remember my mother who has a marvelous reading voice and all my dad was dyslexic. And he read One. Word. At. A. Time. A wonderful, wonderful man, but I got to appreciate the Bible more because he read one word at a time. That has had a huge impact on me.
My mom would read all kinds of things. She would read Shakespeare when I’m like ten, hardly able to understand any of what she said, “If we are marked to die, we are enough to do our country ….” But she was able to thrill me, you know. She was an English major and then she did her master’s degree in English as well as another one in counseling, and so forth. But she loved the literature. I remember sitting on the couch listening to her read Geoffrey Chaucer. I didn’t understand it, but I snuggled up next to my mom and it made a huge impact.
This is life, you know. This is how God works. We get a younger brother right in the opening pages of Genesis, you know, and here’s a guy who is the least likely to succeed as an author. I mean, writes the book that is, you know, been second only to the English Bible. And it’s the publishing phenomenon of the English-speaking world. JK Rowling step aside – you had to write seven books to get up there.
I could go on and on. We read aloud in our home constantly, reading aloud with my younger kids. I got on a kick of reading Rosemary Sutcliff – full of poetry and prose and just so earthy and just marvelous stuff. Forty-seven books from her. She had a lot of chronic pain and was in a wheelchair for most of her life and yet wrote these marvelous, marvelous Eagle of the Ninth and all the rest.
I’m so glad that you share that. And I loved how your mom started the tradition for you of reading out loud. I always enjoyed reading out loud to my children when they were young, but I’ve kind of gotten out of the habit. Now you’re encouraging me; maybe I’ll start reading out loud again
It’s tough when they’re teenagers. They’ve got all kinds of things going; it’s hard to get the whole clan together. So you just do with … you know, if only one cow comes in, you feed them, right?
The Real Fears of Becoming an Author
So as writers, we know that each book that we create comes with its own set of challenges, but none more so than our very first book. I was wondering if you could share, what was the biggest challenge you had to overcome when you were writing and publishing your very first book?
I would say probably fear. No, fear isn’t really strong enough – probably terror was the thing I had to overcome.
I was a classical Christian high school English and History teacher at the time and I was actually editing some work for two of my colleagues, both of whom are published authors. And as I was editing chapters, reading them, and making suggestions, I began thinking, if these guys can do this, I can too.
Then I had the terror of writing part of a story, and then writing a synopsis, and then submitting it. This is like 23 years ago, pre 9/11. There were a lot more Christian publishing houses that would take unsolicited manuscripts back then; there’s a lot fewer of them now.
But as this podcast has honed in on so ably, independent publishing isn’t really the phenomenon anymore. I get emails and questions from various aspiring writers and I say, don’t turn your nose up at independent publishing; it’s probably the way of the future, especially when you do the math and look at the resources that are available to you to launch into the world.
Well, I didn’t go that route. I actually sent it off to some of the same ones that my colleagues had sent their manuscript off to when I was only halfway finished with it. And eight days later, I got a phone call from one of the eight publishers. I ended up having three of the publishers very interested in what I was doing.
Being a rookie, not knowing what’s going on, you’re just all twitterpated and excited to hear back these people, you know. You don’t think very clearly, and you don’t pause to read the fine print and some of those things on contracts and stuff. So, if I had waited six weeks on my early publishing, my early books would have all been under the same roof as probably 17 or 18 of my other books now with a very wonderful publishing house, in New Jersey, P&R Publishing, but that was in the providence of God, too.
Anyway, so I don’t know. I think the challenges are a little different now than they were 23 years ago. But also, the opportunities I think, are far better now than they were then. You know, I didn’t have a cell phone in my pocket 23 years ago, when I got this phone call. The secretary in the school office got that phone call. She brought me a little yellow Post-it note while I was teaching and put it on my desk. That was that was how it worked in those days, you know, and I’m thinking, I’m gonna get to a phone.
Right? Can I ditch class? Can I go make the call now?
So yeah, it was pretty exciting. But I would urge listeners, if they decide to go the traditional publishing route, to take some deep breaths and ask some good questions. Be gracious and all of that, of course, as Christians.
But also know that contracts are all written in the interest of the publishing company, not necessarily in the interest of the author.
I have a son, who’s now an attorney. Looking back at some of these documents I say to myself, Oh, my goodness, I wish I had his as an attorney then, when those things were coming through.
Pause. Get some counsel, that sort of thing.
I guess the next part of the spirit of terror was, okay, let’s say that I do get a publisher and sign a contract, get an advance for royalties, you know, blah, blah, and then it comes out, and it flops? You don’t want to write a book that nobody wants to read. That’s one of the long-standing rationales behind traditional publishing having a gatekeeper: the gatekeeper presumably knows something about the reading public, the industry, what kinds of books are selling well, and how to present those books and cover art and titles and all those things – how to market them.
When you’re writing your first book, you have absolutely no readership; you’ve got zero readership. You don’t have any trail to go back to and say, “Hey, here’s another book.” As you write more and do trilogies, series, and all that then you build a readership, presumably, that’s waiting, hopefully, anxiously for the next book.
The Value of Supporting Fellow Creatives & Joining a Writing Community
Yes. And those fears are very real today, just as they were back then. But especially when you’re starting out and you’re fearing, is anyone going to read my book? and you have those zero people. That’s the importance of community, I think, and getting plugged in to author groups, writing groups. Just meet and start making those connections that will help build your confidence, and also open those doors to future readers.
That’s absolutely right. I had the privilege just the other day … a friend of mine wrote a Facebook post on forgiveness and I read it. I knew he did his doctoral studies on forgiveness, so I’m reading this and I thought, that is so accessible. You know, academic writing is typically not something people line up to read. It’s written for a little handful of colleagues to read – more or less, and usually more than less – but I’m reading this and thinking that it is so well put – the illustrations he used and all the connections he made – so I messaged him back and said, “Thank you for that. It’s so good.” So I was able to just open an email, go back to one of my publishers that I thought would be interested in it, and said, “Hey, this is this is really good material.”
That’s part of the network. Once you’re in the network, and you’ve made relationships, and if you love those relationships and guard them, then you can help each other. It’s not a rivalry. We’re in this together.
You know, historical fiction writers shouldn’t feel like I don’t want anybody else to read anybody else’s historical fiction. No, I do. It’s a great genre. It really is marvelous. A Tale of Two Cities was a really landmark one for me and a defining one of the whole genre. But you know, I think it’s really important – especially as Christians – to say, “No, we’re in this together. It’s not just about me; it’s not just about my books.”
There is a sense of thinking as readers are buying those books, they might like one better than mine, and then authors will fear. But you know, perfect love casts out fear. And God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear, but a sound mind.
As the body of Christ, we should be helping each other; we should be encouraging each other.
I don’t think we do that as well as we should. I know that I don’t do that as well as I should. But you’re absolutely right about community.
Absolutely. And I agree. I am a huge cheerleader of other writers, and especially Christian writers, and trying to get their works out and spread the word.
Another argument for that is the readers out there, they’re hungry. They read a book, you know, some in a couple of days, sometimes more than one a week. We can’t write that much, individually. So why not introduce them to other writers in our genre?
Work to Become a Better Creative Writer
I’ll just say – no apologies for this – I don’t like the adjective Christian writer. Because Christian works better as a noun than an adjective. I think it gets diminished as an adjective. CS Lewis says something about this (I’m paraphrasing here; sorry, CS): We don’t need more Christian writers, we need more Christians who are good writers.
Good communication and collaborating. I think he’s absolutely right. First and last, we need to write a really good yarn that’s compelling. There’re so many different ways that we learn how to do that. And one of them is by finding other writers that have inspired us.
I started doing that with Rosemary Sutcliff in my early writing journey, and this is how I taught writing as a classroom teacher and as a homeschool dad. Imitation is the best form of flattery, but it also is one of the very best ways … Ben Franklin became such a great communicator – witty and able to marshal words to do what he needed them to do – by reading The Spectator over and over again, unpacking it, taking it apart, and finding out how Joseph Edison, Richard Steele, and Samuel Johnson wrote so compellingly. By asking, “How did they write with in such a way that I can’t put this down?” So he began to imitate them by trying out key words; the particularly evocative descriptors that they used.
I’m just going to write those down on a list in this paragraph, and then I’m going to put it aside. And then I’m going to unpack this on my own and train myself to communicate like these great communicators. It is a very biblical way to approach all of life – Paul says to also imitate me as I imitate Christ.
We need those connectors to the Lord Jesus, and that’s why what I do in church history. I also don’t like the adjective there either – church history – as if there’s some other category of history.
It’s all redemptive history. It’s all Christ. It’s a totality of what we are and what we’re doing.
Oh, those are great distinctions. I’m going to try to be more mindful of the words that I use and the descriptors. Thank you for that; that’s really, really impactful.
So, you’ve written more than 30 books, which is a lot. It takes work, as you were alluding to with Benjamin Franklin pulling out those words and doing the research and the writing. Thirty books is very impressive.
How have you seen God at work throughout your writing journey?
Suffering is Part of Creative Writing & Has a Purpose
I’ve seen the Lord at work in so many ways. Some of them are really hard.
I tell my writing students, if you want to write well, you’re gonna have to suffer. I’m just going to be honest: you’re gonna have to suffer.
The apostle Paul said all those who have believed in Christ Jesus are going to suffer persecution, and it’s going to cost you to be a writer. We can’t empathize with our readers unless we’ve actually been through a furnace in some way. And, and everybody’s gonna go through that furnace. There are different furnaces out there, but all of them should make us more empathetic about the sufferers in those furnaces.
So, I think that’s a principal way it is painful. I sometimes ask God, “Why am I having to suffer in this way, with this other layer on top of it, and then this other layer on top?” I can take one layer or two, but why these other layers of suffering and affliction? And I think I know now it’s because he wants to teach me things that there’s no other way I can. So, I want that to be reflected in my writing.
I want to write with truth, but also with empathy and with compassion for my reader. And for my antagonists. That was one of the things Tolkien does so well with Gollum. Sometimes we feel really sorry for Gollum. We’re thinking No, Gollum is a slimeball. But he’s right, you know. Recognize that the backstory for [?] would end in Gollum for me if it wasn’t for the grace and mercy of God in Christ. And so it gets back to what I was about to say.
Everything I write, I want to be ultimately redemptive. I never want to be preachy; I do have characters who are pedantic and want to come in there and fix everybody else’s problems. But those aren’t my principal voices. Principal voices are going to be usually a minor character, somebody who’s imperfect, because they fall. I can think of so many that had been so much delight to create.
But ultimately, I want to create in my reader, Christian or otherwise (and I hope that unbelievers will read my books; I have no interest in crossing over), a longing for this all to be fixed. It’s a broken mess.
My unbeliever who’s reading the story may for a while be the person that the psalmist is thinking about, in the opening verses of Psalm 73. Why are they prospering and I’m suffering so much? There is no middle suffering for them; everything’s going hunky dory while look at me – I’m a mess. What’s going on here? Have I kept my hands clean and my heart pure for nothing?
We get that way. And I’m so thankful for Psalm 73. Like my good friend, Ian Hamilton, says (he’s a Scot, so he says it really memorably): “Most of us don’t need criticism. We don’t need somebody to shout at us. We don’t need somebody to put us down. We need encouragement.”
Most of us are in trouble, most of the time, in some form or another. So, I try to write with a sense that the person reading this is in trouble. Believer, unbeliever, they are in trouble, they’ve got something. If they’re not in trouble now, they’re going to be.
I want to write in such a way that it gives a longing for the Redeemer, for all to be fixed. For all the pain and suffering and brokenness to be fixed. All the untrue, things can be put to rights, He promises. So I want to get my reader longing for that. I want them to feel it. I want it to ache in their bosom, that this isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. How can it be fixed?
Lewis has said something in an essay he wrote for children – it has a spot on my reading list for Oxford – and he says:
- Don’t write what you think your reader wants. That’ll make you look at the trend machine; that’ll make you write for a moment. But you won’t write anything that endures because the trend machine is always changing.
- Don’t write what you think your reader needs, because that makes you pedantic and preachy.
- Write what you need.
I need Jesus. I need the brokenness of life to be healed and made new – all the things that Christ does. And He doesn’t do it by ending all of our affliction. Look at the three Israeli refugees in the fiery furnace. He didn’t take them out of the fiery furnace – not at first. He joined them and he came into the furnace.
I want my reader to long to know Jesus better. The best way to do that isn’t to preach to him. I mean, preaching is a great thing. That’s the genre that God’s ordained as proclamation of truth. But I’m not first and last a preacher. I preach all the time; actually I call it acts of worship, but I mean, how did Jesus preach? He told the truth —
And He told them in stories.
The Importance of Writing – and Reading – Fiction & Poetry
Stories. All the time. Some preachers say we’ll never use illustrations or never use certain kinds of illustrations. Jesus didn’t get the memo.
I think that storytelling is really, really important. It’s a big gaping hole in our seminaries. I hesitate to use superlatives, but I think it’s a big gaping hole in almost all of our seminaries.
I remember I was at CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) now ICRS (International Christian Retail Show). Publishers release books at these events and any independent publishers can join and present and introduce books. Attendees can sit down at the table with distributors and with bookstore owners, there are still some brick-and-mortar bookstore owners out there.
I remember a fella coming up and asking about one of my books I was showing. I don’t know if it was Hostage Lands or Hand of Vengeance – one of those early Britain tales, and he says, “Oh, is that fiction? You know? I’m in seminary so I just don’t have time to read fiction. I’ve got things [I’m required] to read.”
David Gordon’s book, Why Johnny Can’t Preach, is a great book. He makes the argument that one of the reasons why Johnny can’t preach is that Johnny doesn’t read great literature. He doesn’t read classic literature, whether poetry and prose and epic, and all that has really defined the soul of Western civilization. He has another soul of Western civilization, and he’s going to step into the pulpit, and preach to them, or preach to some other civilization or other parts of the world. And he doesn’t know their story. It’s a huge gaping hole.
They don’t know poetry. It’s one of the reasons why, in my judgment, we have some of the problems we’ve had in what used to be called the “Worship Wars” is that we’re a post-poetry world. We haven’t realized that so much of what we’re singing is really vacuous, banal poetry to start with; it’s just not good poetry.
If we had been immersed in the great poetry of our life we would see the common and say, “Whoa, I’m not going to offer that to the eternal living God in worship, Who made us poets and Who communicated to us in vast poetry throughout the scriptures.”
Scriptures are full of imaginative literature. Why are seminaries empty of imaginative literature?
Great questions. Such great perspectives get me thinking in ways that I haven’t before. And I think some of our listeners will find that true as well. There’s so much more that I would love to talk to you about in this vein, because of your vast experience and knowledge in this field, but for today’s episode, I also wanted to give our listeners some practical tips, and I wanted to focus on your belief that our writing should be creative writing, the listeners here are comprised of all different genre of writing. And so I thought this would be very relevant. So first, if you could just, in your words, define creative writing for us.
Creative Writing and the Essay
You know, we are made in the image of God, our Creator. I was listening this morning to these incredibly beautiful bird songs. You know, God could have made one birdsong. He could have made just, you know, the bird does its job, blah, blah, blah. But He made hundreds, thousands of different birds with different songs that they sing.
Life is like that. God, our Creator, created, I mean, the birds are just one thing. Think about the trees in the garden, all that’s in between all the different fruits, so many different ones. We could have taken a protein pill. But no, He’s given us all these glorious different traditions in the various cuisine, and then new traditions and other foods God has allowed us to create.
Why do we think we should stop creating when we put pen to paper, whatever our genre?
Essay writing, I think, is one of the most important foundational tools for young people to learn to write well, to write creatively. Most people like that story or that poem, or that song or whatever, but they don’t really want to hear your essay. I wanted kids to write essays that actually would be riveting and compelling. So in the introduction to stories, to blog posts … this applies to devotional writing, practical theology … to all of these different nonfiction categories. It applies to academic writing, I think, though nobody in the academy seems to be saying thank you. So very few.
But one of the categories of the introduction, you need to create a need to read. I’ve got to figure out who’s my reader, how can I connect to them creatively so that I awaken not only their eyes in their mind, but also awaken their imagination?
We’re made in the image of God. He is a creator. We have been given creativity. We have been given this phenomenon as human beings of imagination. And we need to appeal to that.
Unfortunately, that’s why Johnny can’t preach. There’s a lot of Johnnies out there that get the theology right, they get the practical there, they got it all. Not all of them, by the way, but for the most part, they’re not awakened in the imagination of the listener.
The most compelling sermons, most compelling essays, most compelling blog posts, most compelling nonfiction books on various topics (time management, whatever it is), are going to connect to the creativity and the imagination of the reader.
All writing, really, before the face of God, has to be creative and imaginative writing because God, our Maker is creative. And imaginative.
He’s made us each unique and the buzzword these days is write in your own voice. And I think that unpacks the voice very well, what you just said.
We need to have a network of others because your voice is not the same as my voice. And readers need to hear your voice, not just my voice.
Creative Writing in Historical Fiction
Now, you write a lot of historical fiction as well. So how can a person creatively tell the truth with fiction?
Yeah, there’s this sense that fiction is not true, or that it’s somehow a fabrication, that it’s an alternate to truth, and some fiction is – I’m not disparaging fantasy writing fantasies, it’s a marvelous genre. It’s not the genre that I’m drawn to personally, but I don’t think it’s an illegitimate genre at all.
But what I mean by telling truth in fiction, most of my books are historical fiction, there are others, but I think characters have to be authentic. They have to be drawn truthfully, even the fictional characters.
As a historical fiction writer, one of the things I’m doing in two different areas right now is I’m reading widely in, you know, whether that’s Pacific Theater, World War Two, or whether that’s 14th century Bohemia, in Prague, I’m looking for a character that’s maybe mentioned.
I do this in The Hobgoblins, my historical fiction on John Bunyan, my most recent release. Bunyan mentions in his Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, which is his spiritual autobiography, a childhood “cut-up, blaspheming friend” of his named Harry. That’s the only mention of it. Period. And he mentions it much later, when he’s talking to him as an adult, that Harry is not a believer; he’s stayed the course whereas God rescued John Bunyan, calling him to repentance and to find freedom in Christ and all that he’s longing for. And his blasphemy is fulfilled in Christ, the opposite of blasphemy worship on your face.
So, I take and create history. The childhood episodes that we do know about from Bunyan, I have him and Harry – we want them together.
And then, you know, so I’m always looking for William, the real historical character in Battle of Seattle, [which takes place] back in the mid-19th century Puget Sound Indian Wars. He was a dispatch writer for the Washington Territory, militia perfect lands, because he’s moving from one unit to the other. He’s carrying messages from one unit to the other; he knows what’s going on in the woods over here.
Other than that, we don’t know very much about him. But I unpack him and give him flesh and blood. He’s got a conflict, he’s in trouble, too. He’s got great problems: family issues as an adult brother taking care of a younger sister, and there’s no mom and dad – we don’t know why until later in the story. In my Crown and Covenant trilogy, there’s a mention of three or four local men who came to the rescue of this career guy that was about to be roasted on a grid iron by the Redcoats. I give flesh and blood and names and problems and issues to those three or four men that came to his rescue. And that escalates into six books, basically, to a trilogy.
That’s what you’re always looking for. You want to weigh in, you want a lens. You’re telling truth in historical fiction; there is real history going on. And there has to be; you can’t tamper with the history just for fun, you know, the history is real. But you can create authentic fictional characters who can be your lens, to seeing understanding and experiencing history entering into it yourself.
The best thing for a writer of historical fiction is to think about wanting their reader to become a character in the story. They’re so caught up in the story that they’d begin to identify with your protagonist or maybe a hundred characters along with that protagonist.
That’s my goal as I’m creating, that I want my reader to be in the story and they can’t put it down. Then I can invest in Eveready batteries, because I used to do that all the time. I huddle with my book with the flashlight, you know, and my parents, they knew and but deemed it one of those indulgences. They’d say [to me], “You need to go to bed on time,” but [to each other], “If he’s reading for another hour, that’s all good.”
Those are great explanations. What a great goal to as a historical fiction writer.
Creative Writing in Poetry
Before we end, I wanted to touch on one more aspect of writing about poetry. And I agree that it is not discussed very much at all these days or read widely. I think everyone would agree that poetry is primarily based on creativity, yet it needs to be balanced with you know, foundational principles. And you have developed what you call the “push-ups of prose.” I didn’t know if you wanted to share one or two of those with our listeners?
There is a kind of a sub-point under my C4 Explosive Writing series of addresses on how do we write explosively so that we come into the room and everybody has to reckon with what’s going on in the scope because it’s so compelling. It’s the most important thing at the moment. How do I do that? Let me give you an example.
CS Lewis considered himself a poet. His first book published and he writes about seeing that book there at Blackwell’s Oxford and what it made him feel like and think about as he pulled his own book off the shelf. He didn’t see CS Lewis as the name on the cover. He did that on purpose because he didn’t know it was going to be a success. So he took his mother’s maiden name, and it was Clive Hamilton, which was a good move.
It was Spirits in Bondage. It was a lot of really angry poetry he wrote in the trenches of WWI. Lewis considered himself a poet, but Spirits in Bondage didn’t end up being up there with Wilford Owen, some of the great poets of WWI. Partly, I think it’s because he was so arrogant. And also, there was this incredible disconnect with his atheism, because he’s writing poetry, some of it to God, and blaming God shaking his fist at the heavens, about all the horror that he had seen. There’s a certain inauthenticity to needing to create a God that you can blame, because we’re certainly not going to blame human beings for this.
So I think there’s reason there’s some of the poetry is really quite good, quite searching. But a lot of it is kind of like … okay. It ended up being a flop. His next book was also a poetry dimeter. And it was also a flop, and he was wise enough to not use CS Lewis on it.
My point is this that Lewis did become, I think, one of the great poets. I’m reading his book very slowly, I’m just not on his level – so many categories I don’t even have. I really wish I knew what he was talking about.
But the reason he was able to write so imaginatively, with such creativity, and use compelling illustrations to draw you in, and help you to understand what he was trying to communicate? It’s because of the push-ups of prose that he did.
He was writing poetry all the time. He was writing poetry in Latin, and Latin verse. And here’s the thing: we have to put air quotes around poetry. Because in our egalitarian, individualistic moment in the history of literature, art, beauty and truth, we say that poetry is anything I say poetry is.
I can fragment my prose. I know some pretty good people who do this sometimes in their weekly devotions. But I can fragment my prose, and put them in these arbitrary lines, as if they’re poetry. But it’s really just fragmented prose. But it looks kind of cool, like poetry. But it’s not really poetry.
There are certain parameters that make something poetry and various people have various ways of drawing those parameters. But with my teaching poetry for many, many years, people would criticize sometimes and say, “Well, why don’t you let your students write in free verse?”
Oh, I do. I do. We just call it brainstorming. We’re not done yet.
What did Robert Frost say? Because he was a traditionalist writing in the 20th century. And he got criticized by the all those people who said, “You should break all the rules, just let it all hang out. Basically, poetry is an emotional striptease, and you get to define what it’s supposed to be.” And Robert’s response was, “Writing poetry that doesn’t rhyme is like playing tennis with a net down.”
Now, I don’t think Frost would say that as an absolute. There is free verse poetry. That’s the result of a very mature poet who’s done all of this spadework and submitted themselves to form. That’s not what we’re doing.
The average well- meaning, new convert, youthful guy with a guitar in the garage, is now creating worship music. One who has no theological training, no literary training, no poetic understanding of the power of metaphor, and really is pretty nascent in his understanding of the Bible, but he’s writing the worship lyrics were supposed to take back to God?
God raised up somebody like David, Asaph, and others to write under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. They made the most magisterial Hebrew poetry ever written. Or the prophets, so much of the prophets were writing in poetry, they’re writing in Hebrew poetry, and there’s form and there’s order. There’s structure and you have to submit to that form.
We’re not exactly a moment in the history of humanity that likes to submit to form, not a bit. There’s no vetting needed, you know. All I have to do is create something in the garage, get it to the tech guys, they put it on PowerPoint, we’re good to go.
Nobody stopping, slowing the process down, and saying, “Wait! Is this really worthy?”
Have the eternal Infinite Creator God, whose praises were singing, in mind. He made us to create. He made us to create with excellence. He gives us models of what that looks like. Are we submitting the form?
As English speakers, we have this incredible, vast, poetic tradition. I’ve been studying it for decades of my life and I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface. I plan to keep studying and reading and taking in till the day I die.
If you really want to write prose well, [you need to read good poetry.]
I have so many people that say, “I want to write a book.”
I ask, “Have you read some poetry?”
“I don’t like poetry.”
So, I follow up with, “Well, what do you mean by poetry?”
Usually, they show me something that doesn’t make sense. I remember in high school English class, hearing some of this [free verse] and wondering why doesn’t he just say [what he means]?
At that particular moment in my Philistine meathead imagination, I wanted a grocery list of to-do’s. I was not even at the very first step. Even with my mom reading to me, I was all for groundwork that didn’t come to fruition until I did some maturing. I still need the push-up.
So, I would just urge somebody who wants to write a book to go back to the rudiments of your imagination. Go back to what God made us, to how God communicates with us in story and in poetry, this higher-register language that augments us, that lifts us above the ordinary speech.
There’s a reason for that. I mean, we just saw the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II. They weren’t playing Three Dogs Night at Westminster Abbey. They were singing something else. Why is that? “Well, it was just a preference because she was old.” No, it’s not just a preference because she was old. It’s augmented speech. That’s the only thing appropriate for such a high-register moment, which we have week by week, on the Lord’s Day.
That’s a high register moment. It’s the high watermark of the week from creation. We shouldn’t create something that looks like something else that’s popular right now. The entertainment stage, the rock concert, the football stadium; so many of us don’t want the augmented. We don’t want the high register.
We want the common, and poetry will confront that desire. We need it more than ever. We’re in a post-poetry world. But that means we need it all the more. It means we have more work to do to get back to where we were. Because we’ve lost categories needed to be able to even understand poetry.
That’s not a short answer to your question.
But that is so good. I’m just really motivated right now and I know at least one portion of what you’ve shared has resonated with each and every listener. You’ve shared so much, and I so appreciate your time and wisdom and experience, and your faith. Thank you so much for all of that.
I know that many of our listeners will want to learn more about you. Can you please share how they can connect with you?
Yes, thanks, Dalene. Bondbooks.net (not “.com” – that’ll take you to all the James Bond stuff) will get you to my site and you’ll learn about writing opportunities. I’m blogging there, I have study guides for homeschool families that go along with so many of the books on historical fiction as well as nonfiction books, people come to the site for signed gift books and things like that, too.
And then you also learn more about my creative writing master classes and would love to have you join us. They’re small groups, they fill up quickly. There’s not a lot of space at Oxford; we take a mass total of only nine people, including me. It’s a very intimate week, really going close. People bring what they’re writing and we do lots of critique together, and we do it on location at these marvelous places where Wycliffe translated scripture where, you know, so many greats wrote so many great hymns. We don’t think of it, but hymns first started as poems.
The literary tour of middle England, we go to Bedford, Elstow where Bunyan wrote the classic, Pilgrim’s Progress. And then, of course, our church history tours. We just finished in June in the early church in the British Isles tour, and it was so earthy. We were on Hadrian’s Wall and we were up at Iona where St. Colombo brought the Christian gospel from Patrick’s Ireland to the generation or century later to Scotland. And then it worked its way down. There was no connection to Rome or anything. Then we went across the Irish Sea. The Rome to Geneva trip is coming up.
It’s a marvelous time of fellowship together. We do a lot of singing, and a lot of eating really, really good food. It’s so nice to be back up after the COVID. I mean, it was just horrible for me to be locked down and no Oxford class, no history tours. I’ve been leading church history tours since 1996. So much fun.
And I didn’t learn my church history from Wikipedia. We go through the private library of Merton College, which nobody gets to go through unless you’re a student there. It’s just so much fun; stimulating, too.
Oh, that’s fascinating. Yes, everyone, be sure to visit bondbooks.net. All right. Well, thank you again, so much for joining us.
It has been a pleasure. Thank you.
If you would like to get connected with a group of fellow Christian writers, I have the perfect thing for you. It is called The Inkwell.
It is a group that I have been running for two years now at 10 am Eastern Standard Time. But the exciting thing that I wanted to announce today is that during the month of October – so starting right now – I am opening it up for a second session on Wednesdays at 2 pm Eastern Time.
This has been done primarily because I’ve been hearing from many of my West Coast friends who would love to join in, but the 10 am Eastern is just a little too early for them, especially when they have littles that they’re trying to get out the door.
I encourage each of you to consider joining a session of The Inkwell. It’s a great opportunity to connect with fellow Christian writers, pray together, share resources together, but most of all – get writing done!
If you don’t think you can write in a short amount of time, I want you to give it a try. You just might be surprised by how much you get accomplished in our hour together.
So again, it’s a trial run in October every Wednesday 10am Eastern AND 2pm Eastern.
If I get enough participants in the afternoon session, I will continue it after October. But it’s up to you to let me know if that is something that you would like to do, and you can let me know by joining. And how do you join?
It’s free – no money at all. I just need to know where to send you the login information every Wednesday morning. I hope to see you there!
I also wanted to remind you that if you haven’t already, let me know if you have published a Christian book. I am curating a list of books that I am going to distribute in November. I’m going to share about it here on a podcast episode in November, as well as sharing those books to my private list of readers; my mailing list of readers that I have accumulated.
So if you haven’t already taken me up on this offer, it’s a fantastic offer for you to be able to get your book seen by new readers. Be sure to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and provide me with some basic information.
I need to know your name and the title of your book (or books, if you’ve written more than one); let me know about them. Of course, they should be Christian books, whether it’s a Christian theme (if it’s fiction), or a devotional or a how-to or whatever kind of Christian book you’ve written, I want to know about it. If it’s independent or traditionally published – either one – send them to me.
- your name,
- the book title,
- a blurb about the book (the back cover blurb – let me know what it’s about), and
- a link so I can see the cover and ideally read the first chapter or sample – the Look Inside feature.
Send those my way by the end of this month, October 31.
I’m so excited to take a look at those and curate that list for a future episode in November. Like I said, I want to support you. This podcast is all about supporting Christian writers. And I know that, especially when we’re indie published, it can be really hard to get our books in front of new readers.
This is my way to reach out and help you in a small way. But it could be a big way, too. You just never know!
So send me that information. I look forward to hearing from you.
Be sure to subscribe to Ink and Impact on your podcast player of choice (if you haven’t already!) or you can always go to the Ink and Impact.com website.
That’s it for today fellow pen pusher.
Remember, don’t just write a book. Make an impact.
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