Writing stories that make us bigger on the inside
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Back in April when What Grew in Larry’s Garden was first published, my excitement about the book was tempered with disappointment that I could not celebrate its launch as planned with family and friends. But there was consolation in knowing that I was by no means alone in this experience.
I am part of a FB group for writers, and it helped me a lot to be in the company of others who found themselves in a similar position. One such sister-author was Anna Woofenden, whose book This is God’s Table: Finding Church Beyond the Walls, was also released this past spring.
Recognizing that we were both writing about growing food and community, Anna recently invited me to be a guest on the Food and Faith Podcast. She and her co-host, Derrick Weston, welcomed me warmly–the first children’s book author to join them–into conversation about the power of stories, the influence of our personal geography, what gives us hope these days, and much more.
To listen to our conversation, check out this link: https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-ikzmd-f453cd?fbclid=IwAR3z80RTe7_Ra6dXxmNgwT02GeQcibx5pI33VJ2_n5ij1C_b41n8bnFKuws
When I cross a threshold, especially when entering an unfamiliar place, I have habit of pausing. The pause may be too short to be perceptible to anyone else, but it is there. In that fraction of a second (or longer) I can take a breath and get ready to face whatever it is that waits on the other side.
The start of Advent separates the old church year from the new. As weird and unwelcome as much of this past year has been, in some ways it has simply highlighted what is always true: we never really know what waits for us across the threshold.
Of all the things I have learned telling stories to children over the years, the one that stays with me most is this little knot in the gold cord. We place the knot at the spot on the circle where Advent starts. This particular moment in the circle of the year—the threshold between old and new—is a place to pause, to take a breath, to get ready.
The wisdom of the circle tells us that no matter what waits for us, no matter what we are waiting for, every beginning is an ending, but every ending is also a new beginning.
A blessed Advent to you all.
We’re almost there.
There was a time when the approach of Advent saw me up to my neck in card stock, rubber stamps, cookie cutters, candles, purple fabric, and an assortment of new books for the season. The irony of such excess in what is meant to be a simple and reflective season was never lost on me, but I loved all the rituals so much I just kept adding to them.
Not this year.
We might manage a purple paper chain. And there are some picture books we read every year. This week I have put Sting’s If On a Winter’s Night on repeat and sometimes I turn the lights out and just sit in the dark, soaking in the melancholy sound.
I figure that’s OK.
Although we often speak of Advent as a season of hope, it is also a season of discontent and lament. That is where most of the traditional texts begin–in mourning, exile, longing, and homesickness.
I have a little journal where I write down quotations and ideas that I want to remember. Yesterday I was skimming through it and came upon this one:
“Be an unconditional friend to yourself.
Don’t condone, or condemn.
Just let yourself be who you are.
Allow, allow, allow.
Then see what happens.”
This Advent I hope we can all allow ourselves to be who we are. To feel what we need to feel. Allow. Allow. Allow.
Then see what happens.
Every so often I will stumble across something I wrote a while back and have since forgotten about. It’s a bit like looking at an old photograph: I recognize myself, but I can also see how I have changed.
While searching for something else this afternoon, I came upon this blog post I wrote shortly before the publication of Look! A Child’s Guide to Advent and Christmas. It carried me back to a different time in my life. But it also spoke to me in new ways where I am now. I never did share it on my website, so I have decided to do so now, especially since Advent is less than two weeks away.
“Advent is a time to practise patience as something new is formed in us. Advent is a time to be particularly open to the Spirit. Advent is a time to watch for ways we can take part in transforming aworld which cries out for healing. Advent is a season for looking—searching for signs of Christ bursting into the world, and knowing that we are all invited to share in that holy work.”
Now there is a worthwhile invitation. So what are we waiting for?
You can read the whole post here: https://paracletepress.com/blogs/paraclete-press-blog/what-are-we-waiting-for
Putting words on paper–though never easy–is less daunting to me than public speaking. However, I do enjoy chatting about my books with an interested audience.
When Julie from Canadian Picture Book Blog reached out to tell me that she has been sharing What Grew in Larry’s Garden with her students, I was delighted. So when she asked if I would consider doing a short interview about the book, I was more than happy to participate.
Bloggers like Julie are a tremendous support to Canadian writers and illustrators–and she asked particularly good questions! Pondering them prompted me to reflect more deeply about my own writing, which is always a good thing.
Reminiscing about favourite childhood picture books was fun too. You can listen to the interview here: https://canadianpicturebookblog.wordpress.com/2020/10/28/what-grew-in-larrys-garden-interview-with-author-laura-alary/
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!
I am delighted to have been invited by Karen Kiefer, author of Drawing God, to take part in her virtual book club this fall. On September 21st at 7:00pm EST I will be presenting a behind-the-scenes look at What Grew in Larry’s Garden and talking a bit about growing kindness, compassion, and mindfulness in our own communities. For more information and to register, click here.