Writing stories that make us bigger on the inside
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One of the most exciting stages in ushering a new book into the world is seeing the cover for the first time (because we all know we really do judge a book by its cover). I had seen some sketches for the interior art of Breathe: A Child’s Guide to Ascension, Pentecost, and the Growing Time so I knew it was going to be good, but I did not know what image would be chosen for the cover, or what it would look like in its final form. I am thrilled with the result! Cathrin Peterslund has done beautiful work and I can hardly wait to see the rest of her illustrations for this book.
Watch for it in Spring 2021 from Paraclete Press!
“Every person who tells these stories does it in a slightly different way. And every person who reads these stories hears something a bit different. So even though these stories are very old, they are also always new.”
There are a few blogs I follow regularly because their quality is consistently good, their content helpful and practical, and I have come to respect and trust the writers.
One such blog is Faith at Home, written by Wendy Claire Barrie. Wendy is writer, editor, Christian educator, speaker, and author of the book Faith at Home: A Handbook for Cautiously Christian Parents. She is also someone I am glad and grateful to call my friend.
I am honoured that Wendy featured my books about the circle of the church year on her blog. You can read her comments here (and please spend some time browsing the rest of her posts): https://wendyclairebarrie.com/2021/05/15/laura-alarys-breathe-look-and-make-room-guides-through-the-church-year/?fbclid=IwAR0ruGGhwqM28B4qNUhxbuILJoBrU560gE2wGQElHaYCA6L4Ni_hOMFVxgE
The tagline on author Laura Sassi’s website is, “Celebrating reading, writing, and life.” Definitely three things worth celebrating! I was so pleased that Laura invited me to join her in conversation about writing for children, cultivating wonder, the seasons of the Church year, and more.
Here is our interview:https://laurasassitales.wordpress.com
It may seem like I am posting about Breathe too often lately. But now that the rush of the launch is over, it feels good to sit back and enjoy hearing about where the book has ended up and how it is being used. I like to collect and share the reviews, both for the sake of my own record-keeping, and because reading them introduces me to new writers and blogs.
One of the things I appreciate about this review from The Homely Hours is summed up in this phrase this way: “Additionally, I think you know you’ve found a good children’s book when you find yourself reflecting on it.” I always hope my books will have something thought-provoking in them for readers of all ages.
You can read the full review here: https://thehomelyhours.com/2021/05/09/breathe-a-childs-guide-to-ascension-pentecost-and-the-growing-time/
One of the joys of having a new book out in the world is hearing about how people are finding ways of putting it to use. In this thoughtful review of Breathe, Anita Peebles offers some suggestions:
“In 31 pages, Laura Alary has created a beautiful, contemplative, encouraging and inspiring book that gives examples of the Holy Spirit’s being and work in the world in bite-size pieces. You could read Breathe as a whole book or study it very slowly, section by section, wondering about the fruits of the Spirit or how the people in your faith community care for others or about how it feels when people we love go away. And the good news continues—there is a discussion guide as well, provided through Paraclete Press.
This is a lovely book, with solid theological grounding that progressive churches in particular would appreciate–but I hope this book reaches far beyond progressive churches, because Christians of all ages will find refreshment and restoration here.”
To read the full review, click here: https://www.revanitapeebles.com/blog/pentecost-book-review-breathe-by-laura-alary
This is a memory from years ago, but it is still fresh.
I was getting ready to go out. It was only for the day, but I required a lot of gear. By the front door, my youngest daughter pranced around a pile of bags, investigating and wondering aloud. A frown creased her forehead as the questions poured out:
“Where are you going? How long will you be gone? Who will stay with us?”
There was something oddly familiar about her words. Then I remembered. My mind flitted to that moment in the gospel of John when Jesus, reclining in the lamplight around a table with his closest friends, breaks the news to them that he will soon be leaving. Their questions are those of children afraid to be left alone:
“Where are you going? When are you coming back? Who will stay with us?”
When I set out to write Breathe I spent considerable time sitting with the post-resurrection appearances in the gospels, trying to enter imaginatively into the experience of the disciples. To my surprise, what kept sweeping over me was this sense of anxiety–fear of an unknown future, uncertainty about their ability to face it alone, and disappointment (maybe even resentment) that Jesus had come back only to go away…again.
That bundle of emotions was not what I normally associated with Easter, but it felt familiar and true. So I decided to start there and see where it took me. As I traced this thread of anxiety through the resurrection appearances, I became aware of something else. There are two distinct versions of the giving of the Spirit: one in Acts, one in the gospel of John. They differ greatly in tone and detail, but both begin with fear.
I wanted to honour that essential part of the story. If you read Breathe you will see how I have gone about it, especially in the opening section, where the young narrator muses about things that hurt. But I think we can acknowledge these real feelings in the way we celebrate Pentecost too. There is room for more than cake and balloons (though those are good things too).
I have more to say about this in this blog post I wrote for Paraclete Press. You can read it here: https://paracletepress.com/blogs/paraclete-press-blog/who-will-stay-with-us-1
Somehow, in the flurry of launch week activity, I neglected to share this interview I did with author Glenys Nellist.
Glenys is the author of many books for children, including the recent ‘Twas the Morning of Easter, The Wonder That is You, and the Little Mole books. In addition to being a best-selling author herself, she is also a generous advocate for other writers. I really appreciate her giving me the chance to talk with her and her readers about Breathe.
Here is our conversation: https://www.glenysnellist.com/interview-with-laura-alary-author-of-breathe-a-childs-guide-to-ascension-pentecost-and-the-growing-time-plus-a-three-book-giveaway/?fbclid=IwAR3FcA3tGa6oRdv98dwLCW9qE0-YqIcIUK1c0bhGXhwHVb3wWMZ3VxhgCdw
One of the challenging aspects of releasing a new book is finding ways to help people see how they could use it. In other words, writing the book is only the beginning. The next step is figuring out who might find it helpful, and offering some practical suggestions.
Sometimes this can be a bit intimidating, especially when the people to whom I am speaking (or writing) have a whole lot more experience than I do! So I think of it as a big exchange of ideas. I scatter a few thoughts to the wind, hope they take root somewhere, and trust that whatever grows from them will continue to seed itself far and wide, probably in ways I had not even imagined.
This is certainly the case with this brief article I wrote for the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators. You can read it here: https://apcenet.org/2021/04/11/sparks-and-seeds-celebrating-pentecost-and-the-growing-time/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sparks-and-seeds-celebrating-pentecost-and-the-growing-time&fbclid=IwAR1hy99ScVugz4ASpcOU6smwhQJinPoTLLGnfWviuoYlFIdi8Oet8LEaPU8