Writing stories that make us bigger on the inside
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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
On Tuesday April 13th we had our virtual launch party for Breathe! Rachel McKendree from Paraclete Press was our host, and Traci Smith and I had lots of laughs–and some serious moments too–as we talked about simple and meaningful ways of making the book part of the experience of celebrating Pentecost and the Growing Time at home.
I had an opportunity to thank some people publicly at the launch–that’s a thank you flower behind me in the photos–but want to say again how much I appreciate the support I have felt from Paraclete Press, from the launch team, from my endorsers, and from friends far and wide who have shared my excitement about this book.
I feel like the sparks and seeds have been scattered. Now I look forward to seeing what they ignite and grow in other places.
“When I heard that Paraclete Press was publishing another book by Laura Alary, I was excited! I loved her previous books Make Room: A Child’s Guide for Lent and Easter and Look! A Child’s Guide to Advent and Christmas. They stand head and shoulders above other children’s books on those topics, combining explanations of the special days of the church with a deep spirituality and connection to the ordinary parts of a child’s life.”
I am so grateful for this enthusiastic review of Breathe by Debbie Kolacki from Practical Resources for Churches.
Practical Resources for Churches is an organization that supports congregations through webinars, workshops, and other resources. I have benefitted from their help over the years, and am glad that through my writing I am also able to contribute to their work.
“In Breathe Laura has woven a silken thread of our breath through each of these days and season, masterfully tying them to each other from the moment the disciples hold their breath at Christ’s Ascension, through to their breathing in of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and on to the apostles breathing out of God’s love into a growing and changing world. By dividing her work into three distinct sections Laura allows us to experience each day and season on its own while also building a clear connection between each. In each she has provided a rich and descriptive retelling of the biblical story, a contemporary story explaining and reflecting on the time being celebrated, and play-filled suggestions for family activities and conversations to experience together.”
Many thanks to Tori Smit, Regional Minister for Faith Formation for the Synod of Central, Northeastern Ontario and Bermuda (The Presbyterian Church in Canada) for her thoughtful, practical, and beautifully written review of Breathe.
You can read the complete review here: http://www.cnob.org/?p=2296&fbclid=IwAR2x3bRiGFo-WhhJQ3tIsAjhsRqEKGEJmFUscAgDmYz3hZpotNQitpGVqUI
Back in December I joined Derrick Weston and Anna Woofenden on the Food and Faith Podcast to talk about What Grew in Larry’s Garden. I enjoyed myself so much that when I knew the launch of Breathe was approaching I was bold enough to ask if I could make a return visit.
My justification for wanting to talk about my newest book is that there is a whole of food in Breathe! In those 32 pages, people do a lot of planting, weeding, tending, harvesting, cooking, sharing, and eating together.
As I said to Derrick during our conversation, food appears in three main ways: 1) Building community through shared meals (including extending hospitality and care to those who cannot be physically present; 2) Caring for the environment; 3) Using the symbolism of food (vine and branches, eucharistic elements of bread and wine) to express the mystery of one the many can be connected as one.
I thoroughly enjoyed talking with Derrick and highly recommend the Food and Faith Podcast–not just my episode! You can listen to our conversation here: https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-6gvi9-ffc551?fbclid=IwAR21dRAJS0rwVYhyfX873ZKFUfyOKlIKmcUb8hvlMOD2Qx1Ahod0mVcCapc