Monday, July 23, 2007

Cussing for Jesus, Little Things on the Horizon

Cussing for Jesus (or keeping it real in theological memoir)

So I've set this little goal before me. I'm trying to get a rough draft (and boy, it's looking like sandpaper right now) completed by the end of summer.

But here's the thing. I'm calling it a theological memoir, because it's really about tracing my theological development over the last 10-12 years. A lot has changed in my beliefs (or sometimes lack thereof). Sometimes this has involved what my mother would have called "rough language."

I'm going to blame Anne Lamott. She has proven that essays on faith doesn't need the sanitized language of your basic daily devotional. In Travelling Mercies, her telling of her conversion to Christianity is funny, poignant, and too real to read at pretty much any Sunday morning service. Or even Sunday school. Or pretty much most meetings of the faithful (although I'm sure there are exceptions). Reading her work has made me brave enough to tell some of my story with the language that accompanied the living of it.

But then she only has the stigma of being an unwed mother, raising a child alone, and writing about Jesus. I have the stigma of being gay and writing about Jesus. I don't care what anyone says, she's more likely to get the speaking gig at the Christian arts festival, even if she does use words you can't say on the radio.

So I find myself wanting to clean it up so that, even if a crazy huge piece of my faith journey includes being gay, at least people can say, "at least he doesn't cuss like that Anne Lamott."

But you know, who am I kidding? The people who won't read me because I cuss won't read me because I'm gay, even if I don't cuss. I needn't worry about trying to please anyone on the religious radio stations because they're not going to bring me on to talk about the book, no matter how politely worded it is. I need not fear Thomas Nelson on Zondervan turning down my manuscript because there's a bad word in it because I'm pretty sure they're nowhere near considering publishing any gay-positive material. (I'd love to be proven wrong. And I'd love to jump from my roof and soar to the moon, while I'm wishing.)

And I'm pretty sure they're not interested in publishing Anne Lamott, either.

Besides, the people I want to talk to are going to be the people who are already having trouble with church and its uptight image. They're going to be the ones who struggling with leaving or staying with the church or else have already left because they couldn't buy the entire package the church was offering and felt like they couldn't stay and continue to have doubts. I'm guessing this audience isn't going to be overly concerned with a few bad words. It's not as if they'll be on every page. Or even every chapter.

So I'm plowing on and letting fly with the language I need to tell the story as authentically as possible. I'll worry about a publisher later. (And the reaction from some in my faith community . . . later still.)

Little Things on the Horizon

Speaking of being gay, it looks like I might have a small gig writing book reviews for a local gay mag. I sort of stumbled into it. We'll see how it goes. I'll announce more as the first review hits.

I'll be facilitating the Fieldwork workshops again this fall. If you're in Houston and have interest in them, leave me a note.

The Fatal Gift of Beauty and Other Plays by Christopher E. Ellis is on its way to the printers. It'll be available soon. Finally.

Planting a few other seeds here and there. The creative writing workshops I've been leading for two weeks now are going along, doing well. There's some interest in keeping them up beyond the six week session I advertised. I do want to do that, but have to figure out my own limits. Unfortunately, time is finite. This is the biggest complaint I have.

So many possibilities. So little time.

Stay tuned. Keep in touch. Some possibilities are probable.

Friday, July 13, 2007

a writer's life, a publisher's life, a workshop leader's life

A Writer's Life (or thriving on rejection)

Came home from the day job this evening to a rejection letter in my email box. It was one of those form letters that tries to sound supportive and apologetic. ("We receive manywell-written, compelling, stories, but can only take a verylimited number due to constraints of space and style. ") I'm in a pretty good mood lately, so I kind of shrugged and was about to close out the email when I noticed the p.s. "P.S. Your story was a near miss."

This is not the first such rejection I've gotten. What do you do with these? I mean, the first couple were kind of exciting. They are, after all, a higher caliber of rejection.

And yet, they're rejections all the same. The easily frustrated part of me wants to shake my fist and cry out: when will it be a dead on hit???

Eh. Some days rejections sting more than others. Today, I took the compliment of the near miss and surfed the web to another journal's webpage. I already had another place picked out for this story. The second journal also accepts electronic submissions. They already have it in their inbox.

A Publisher's Life (or becoming that guy that delays the release of your book)

The Fatal Gift of Beauty and Other Plays by Christopher E. Ellis is just days from being sent to the printer. Hours, if you count the actual time I need to put into it to finalize the files. Unfortunately, the time I need to put into it requires some amount of concentration, which I lack after 8 hours at the day job. But next week. It's going to the printer next week. Email me at to place your pre-publication order. It'll definitely be ready by September 1.

A Workshop Leader's Life (or learning to lead by pleading)

I have enough participants signed up for the creative writing workshop I'm leading, starting on Monday evening. Now I have the awkward task of getting someone to submit work to go first with the critique session. Actually, the task isn't awkward, but it's going to be awkward Monday evening if we don't have anything to discuss. Actually, we do have one piece, so it won't get awkward immediately. But mid-evening . . . well, I'm sure someone will come through. I actually believe I have the second volunteer, the writer is just retyping the manuscript. Hopefully, this will get easier after the first session.

Having said all that, which I realize sounds like a lot of complaining, which it probably is because I love complaining, I'm also quite excited about this workshop. I've long wanted to try my hand at leading one, indeed, I've been in workshops when I've felt certain I could do better than the person leading it.

Pride goeth before a fall, so this will be interesting.

Nonetheless, I'm excited about the mix of people I have. I haven't met most of them, so I don't know exactly how broad a selection I have, but there is at least a 30+ spread in years among the participants. I can't wait to see what each participant brings to the mix. I think it's going to be a good time.

Most of all, I'm excited to finally fulfill one of the goals of neoNuma Arts, and that's to offer affordable workshops for creative people. Of course, I'm starting with writing, as that's my primary focus, personally, but I hope to eventually (probably very slowly) expand into presenting workshops by other people, perhaps putting together a creativity retreat. Those sorts of things.

I'm all about the slow build, making sure I'm ready before moving forward. This isn't going to happen overnight but it is happening. Keep tuned.