Wednesday, September 28, 2011

the black liquor with which men write

Ink -- The dark liquor with which men write.
the well -- a cavity used to contain liquid.
. . . And Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well . . . John 4:6
Then he taught them things using stories. Matt 13:3
In August 2010 I attended the first ever Hutchmoot. Developed by the writers at, Hutchmoot was a gathering of storytellers to celebrate the inspiration of classical writers such as C. S. Lewis, Tolkien, George MacDonald, Walter Wangerin, Jr., Wendell Berry, and Flannery O’Connor, for starters. I went for the “nuts and bolts”. I was finishing the final revision of my second book for Realms and I was hoping to get some practical information on the editing process. How do you cut 35,000 words from your rough draft and manage to keep the story intact?
But, I never made it to the “nuts and bolts”. I was steeped in Story; embraced by Story; amazed by Story. Story, story, story! I wanted to scream, “It’s the Story, stupid!” to my reflection in the mirror. I was missing the forest for the trees. Here before me was the heart of what I do. I tell stories. And, we do not tell stories in a vacuum. We are not alone!
What made this meeting of story tellers so enticing was the community that developed among the one hundred attendees. This sense of community began with the faculty on the stage. The audience immediately sensed the connection between these authors on the stage. It was palpable and, yes, enviable. They laughed and smiled and completed each other’s thoughts and talked of critique sessions on music writing and song lyrics and chapters of fantasy novels as if they were comparing the many varieties of a diverse meal at a family meal seated around an aged table beside a roaring fireplace.
I wanted this. I wanted to be a part of this camaraderie. I wanted to have this kind of fluid brother and sister hood with fellow Christian writers. I wanted to sit at that table and talk about my Story without worrying about derision and scorn. Let’s face it. The writer’s life is often a lonely life. We sit and stare at the blank manuscript page and we tell our Story. No one sits with us. No one tells us the Story. We are not transcriptionists. We are artists, creators, an insubstantial reflection of the power of our Creator.
Here is an excerpt from the blog of “katannette”  about the wonderful community of Hutchmoot and the Rabbit Room:
Just a few years into our pursuit of a more artfully engaged and financially down-to-earth lifestyle we came across The Rabbit Room. In this semi-circle of artists there seemed to be no exclusivity, no specific hairstyle or ironic t-shirt required.  Just support for the journey and a mutual admission that none of us is yet an expert.  . . .  The world is richer when we are engaged with it, the word is richer when we make it tangible.  There may be nothing new under the sun, but the hard-won art of these Rabbits illuminates the same truths to new people, in a moment’s language.  And when the truth is spoken, they continue on, looking for a way to say it again, for someone else.  The artists that were present this weekend have at times spoken my language, have communicated things I did not even know I needed to receive, and that have changed me eternally.  Their work does not promote escape, but engagement.  It is not numbing entertainment; it is soul distillation.  And, oh, how I need it. [emphasis mine]  I am so grateful to this community, to those who host it, and to each artist who shows up over and over and hollers, “Y’all come!” despite what fear, despite what interruption it brings.
Andrew Peterson talks of a “shack” on his property up on a small hill surrounded by verdant trees and grass and crouched beneath a dome of stars at night. It is here in his solitude he sweated over the last revisions of his latest fantasy novel. Andrew is part of the Rabbit Room. Andrew is part of this community I crave.
And, so I am creating a local Christian artist’s community of my own. I’m calling it the ink*well because we will meet in the coffee shop of my church, the Well. I do not know what will happen. I hope that other artists pursuing their Story with great passion and, sometimes grief, will find a respite at the Well. I am hoping we can gather in the soft, warm glow of candlelight amidst the fragrance of coffee and pastries and share our struggles with Story; our battles with the elusive page before us; our travails at the hands of the savage, knife happy editor that lurks within; to listen and gently critique our telling of the Story. Gather at the table. Sip some spiced tea. Taste a flaky cinnamon roll. Turn away from the gathering words for just a moment and relax at the well of God’s love and share in the creation of Story.
Maybe you have found a way to be in community in your geographical location. I’m not talking about a virtual community. I’m talking about meeting in flesh with other Christian authors. If you have such a community, what is its structure? Local writer’s clubs? Local chapters of national groups? And, if you are a member, what kinds of “support” do you get from such a group and what kind of support do you give to such a group?

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