Tag Archive | writing

Smoldering Bones

file000535737211Seems blogging these days is largely the domain of young moms. Beautiful, spunky young moms who seem to have a lot of answers. Or very educated men, professors and scholars of all ages, also with answers. Or how about those with a bone to pick who want to steer a person in the right direction. And, of course, those people have lots of answers.

Then I toss my hat in the ring. Woman in her forties. Children mostly raised. Not an expert at anything, and glaringly lacking at answers. But here I am.

I’m also not the greatest sharer (is that a word??). Being vulnerable isn’t easy, but I’m working on it. Might be the biggest reason God wants me to do this. Having no answers also isn’t easy, not when it seems everyone else knows something. In my four decades, what I’ve learned best is that I don’t know much. But that’s what I have to share, so I need to do it.

I graduated with a degree in writing. Summa cum laude. With honors. I could write sensual romance, and I would make money. I could join the ranks of DIY bloggers or budget bloggers, and I might have large followings and be able to monetize my blog. Perhaps my dream of moving out of the suburbs and onto a big piece of land, my dream since I was eight, would come true. (See? I can share after all!!)

However, like the prophet Jeremiah, every time I open my mouth, God comes out. My fiction includes Christian romance with teen/college-age heroines and heroes. I write historical fantasy with a Christian bent. Let’s get real here. Nobody does that. It’s writing career suicide. And yet, Ruins on sunset over the ocean. Nature composition.whatever my plan when I start, most of the stuff I write comes out that way. It appeals to few. (I do have a couple non-genre-bending series in the works, including a contemporary Christian romance series, so perhaps God has taken pity on me, and I will put out something with more mass appeal. We’ll see.)

I don’t have a great niche for blogging except I’m old. No international adoptions in my past. I don’t have ten kids; I have four. No special needs kids. No time spent living abroad in missionary capacity. I don’t homestead or live off the grid. The only reason to read what I write is that God keeps saying Write Down Your Story. Maybe that means someone out there is supposed to read it.  Or perhaps I’m supposed to read it, and God will use my story in written words to speak truths to me that I missed the first time around.

Parents today like expert advice. They like new techniques. I don’t have those, but I can tell you what worked for me. And what didn’t. There are fancy new Bible studies out there with lovely photos and poetic prose about living the best spiritual life ever. I can tell you about falling on my face a million times but still sticking the course. I can talk about failure. I can talk about doubt. I can talk about victories and silver linings. I can say it with correct grammar and decent sentence structure, but beyond that, all I can do is keep it real and put it out there.

If you want all the answers or young, pretty bloggers or great inspiration, this isn’t the place. If you want someone who some days wants to throw in the towel and write what sells, envies success, you’re closer. If you want to read about a common soul with a lot of miles, including regrets, defeats, victories, joys, and tears, then welcome. It’s not always a pretty course, but it’s mine. I’d love to hold your hand and walk a few miles in the sunshine–and the rain–and chat about things.

And even if you don’t, I’ll still be here saying them.  When I don’t, it’s a fire shut up in my bones, or so says Jeremiah (chapter 20), and holding it in is worse than letting it out. I’ve quit blogging more than once, but I always get sent back here. So here I stand. Better than having smoldering bones.

A young girl shows a man where to put the boxIf you want to try my genre-bending fiction, check it out on this site or visit my author’s site www.JillPenrod.com.  view Mt Merapi from cangkringan, sleman, Indonesia

Just a story

As an aside to my life, I write fiction.  I’ve done it since elementary school. When I did it in college, they gave me a degree for it.  In my adult life I started writing novels, and I have a bunch of those under my belt.  In fact, I’m trapped in one now.  I’m too big a coward to try to publish, at least at this moment in time, and I’m busy enough that if I have a spare moment of time, I choose writing over fighting my way into the publishing world, anyway. (But mostly I’m a coward.)

I notice my writing has a few constant elements, idealistic and unrealistic elements.  Because I write for myself and the few friends interested in sharing my world, I can put whatever I want on paper, so I do.  Lately I’ve been thinking about what I write versus the reality in which I live, and if I could, I’d jump out of my life into my books in a second.  Or at least I think I would.

Isn’t this a lovely book? I write in English, though, not German.

First, my characters have circles.  Seldom is a character set adrift in the world alone.  Instead, she or he has a small circle of friends, or the lonely character ends the story with a circle of friends.  Super friends, the kind who seek one another out when they’re lost, pursue one another when they run away, come for each other no matter the cost.  The kind who ask the tough questions and know each other with great intimacy and yet still care enough to chase one another down.  The friend willing to overlook the flaws of the others and continue to be friends.  The friend that really doesn’t exist in any person but Jesus himself.

Second, there is always a mission.  The characters are always part of a story larger than themselves.  I place most of my stories in other worlds or past times in this world, so technology isn’t the center of the world.  People are.  And the stories are about moments of great purpose, because who wants to read about doing laundry and answering emails and finding work and living the daily reality of life?  No, something within us knows there is adventure out there somewhere, and in a story, the adventure is safe.  In reality, we have purpose, too, an entire kingdom to bring, but we tend to hang out in the tiny, safe stories of daily life and seldom take the risk of adventure so common in a good story.  Truthfully, we don’t even know what adventure in real life might look like.

Finally, happy endings abound.  Life has a lot of not-so-happy endings.  Sometimes there is future happiness to be found in heaven, but in other stories, there is nothing happy at all.  But in my world, things can work out.  I once wrote a story that revolved around the aftermath of a death, but I had to change it, and death became life.  Loneliness ends in companionship; brokenness ends in healing; the lost are found.  Death and loss and sadness never have the final word.

In my mind, a good story always ends up retelling the best story, the ultimate story.  The story world is filled with adventure, sacrificial love, and great purpose.  Sounds a little like a tale told in the greatest storybook ever written, a tale about a man who loved his friends enough to die for them, about a man who lived again to restore the world to what it was meant to be, about a man who gave his friends a purpose that would eclipse everything else in their world and take them to scary, unsafe, uncomfortable places but always landed them in a happy ending in the final curtain call.

It’s easier to read a good story than to live it.  Danger and risk are, you know, dangerous and risky.  Sacrificial love takes a whole lot of sacrifice and really messes with soccer practice and PTA meetings.  To chase down someone and love them through all the hells of this world?  That interferes with dinner, bonding in front of the TV with family, and a healthy bedtime.  And yet, something inside stands up and cheers at the end of a good story, an epic story, a worthy story.

I wish I had the mettle not just to write a good story but to live one out.  And I wish I had the supporting characters to take the trek with me.  Perhaps, if I keep reading the original story and all the stories that stem from it, someday I’ll live with more risk and purpose and not just write it down.

Of making many books…

I accompanied my oldest son to some bookstores this week.  Big bookstores.  Filled to bursting with words and pages and more words and more pages.  Pictures on covers calling out “Here, here, all the wisdom you need is right here.  Just open me and all will be revealed to you.”

I write.  I write novel-length fiction in my spare time.  I have ten or fifteen  completed and a few in progress.  It’s just how I cope with the world, like knitting or quilting but with words.  I graduated college with top honors for doing it, so I suspect I’m not terrible at it.  But all I have to do is walk into a bookstore and my desire to publish a book evaporates.  The chaos and noise of it all scares me a little bit.

My son was searching for The Art of War by Sun Tzu, so we spent time in both the philosophy and history sections.  I was amazed.  Philosophy is surrounded by new age, wicca, astrology, etc.  Lots of etc.  Three entire shelves were devoted to the Mayan calendar ending in 2012.  Three.  Entire.  Shelves.  All to tell us the world will end in a year.  As though we couldn’t just wait a year and find out for ourselves.

Conspiracy theories are also in these sections.  Lots and lots of them.  And manifestos.  The communist one, a few by liberal and conservative American politicians, and one about loners.  (Okay, I actually want to read the loner manifesto.)  Honestly, I’m not entirely sure what’s in a manifesto, but I guess it’s quite trendy to write one and put it on a shelf with dozens of others.

Then the history section.  Most of them claim to have the truth of history, the real story you didn’t get in school, the stuff they don’t want you to know.  Personally, I have very little faith in any history I’ve ever been taught, and I don’t expect to find it in those books, either.  Public school history was propaganda–Indians were good, Europeans were bad, religion played no role, and we won wars because we’re awesome.  Christian school history is almost as bad–all good leaders of America were devout evangelicals, and God loves America more than any other country in existence at the moment because all our good leaders were devout evangelicals.

Between the history and the philosophy were about a million Christian fiction books, which is largely what I like to write, except mine are usually a tad too secular for the Christian market and a tad too religious for the secular market.  I imagined a book by me in the center of it all, and it seemed very small.  Just a drop of water in an ocean of words.

So many voices.  So much to say.  And we listen and give writers such power.  Words in print seem to be so honest, so true, so edifying.  I once spent time with a group of young mothers, and instead of asking the older mothers for advice, they wanted the titles of books that could teach them to parent, because we all know books are written by experts who know better than we do.  Or at least by lucky people who know someone in the publishing field.  What happened to face to face living, to community, to sharing with live humans in the flesh and blood world?  Why do we think books are so magical?  And Chrisitians may be worse than most–how often are Bible studies based on books with a little Bible added in, instead of based on the Bible with the occasional book to illuminate meanings?

I love to write.  I love to have my writing read by friends and family (click “Manuscripts” above and have a taste).  I would love to be a published writer.  Perhaps when my kids are grown I’ll even give it a serious try.  But at the same time, I hate to add to the noise, to be another voice out there.  I don’t know that any of us have that much to say, but we sure spend a lot of time saying it, and I struggle with the purpose of it, the meaning of it all.

Solomon pegged it in Ecclesiastes.  He warned against empty words masquerading as wisdom.  He warned that constant study wearied a person, that it’s possible to know too much and do too little.  There is a Word that is true and dependable and good for training in righteousness, and the rest need to be taken with a grain of salt and given their rightful place.