What is your new book about?
It’s called Holy Envy after Krister Stendahl, whose third rule for understanding between people of different religions was “Leave room for holy envy.” The book started out as a classroom memoir, focusing on the teaching of Religion 101 (Religions of the World) at a small liberal arts college in rural Northeast Georgia. By the time I finished it, the story was also about how teaching the class challenged and deepened my own faith. I hope it is a book that readers of any or no religious identity can enjoy, but I had Christians in mind when I wrote it—because holy envy is a difficult concept for people who have been taught there is only one way to God. Wrestling with that teaching—and others like it—is what this book is about.
Will you sign a book for me?
Gladly. Just send it to me at Post Office Box 1030, Clarkesville, GA 30523. Be sure to include a self-addressed stamped book mailer along with your instructions to me for signing.
Who handles your speaking engagements?
My calendar is as full as I want it to be for the next couple of years. I am not considering any new invitations at this time.
I have a sabbatical coming up. Are you available for one-on-one meetings or telephone conversations?
Most of the wisdom I have is already on the page. If there is enough in one of my books to prompt further conversation, then the best idea is to find conversation partners closer to home who can provide ongoing relationship—or plan to attend one of the events on my calendar so we can say hello then.
I have a new book coming out that I hope you will endorse. May I send you the manuscript?
Since I have very literate friends, everyone I know seems to have written a book lately. The queue stays full, which means that I am not able to read books by people I have never met. It pains me to say this, since I know how hard it is to write and market a book. Thank you for thinking of me. I hope your book lands in the hand of eager readers who thank you for saying what they wanted to say but didn’t know how.
I am trying to break into the book business. Can you help me figure out how to do that?
The publishing business has changed so much since I first got into it that I would not know where to begin. In your place, I would subscribe to a publication such as Poets & Writers (which has a link for literary agents) or Writer's Digest. If you are trying to figure out where to send your manuscript, then another good idea is to scour the acknowledgements pages of authors whose work you admire to see if you they mention the names of their editors or agents. Unless you are an extreme introvert, it may also be worth your while to join a local writer's group or search the web for a workshop you would like to attend. If spiritual writing is your thing, I can recommend Writing for Your Life (writingforyourlife.com).
What are you reading right now?
My routine involves a regular rotation of U. S. fiction, international fiction, nonfiction, religion, and poetry, so the answer is (in that order) We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter, The Distant Marvels by Chantel Acevedo, The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery, The Art of Bible Translation by Robert Alter, and Refusing Heaven by Jack Gilbert. I think I need to add a classic fiction category since I don't want to give up anything else in order to read Persuasion by Jane Austen, which I somehow missed until now.
What books do you recommend for writers?
This is a little like setting up a blind date, but here are some books I have found helpful for writers of memoir, first person essay, homily, or poem: The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr, Draft No. 4 by John McPhee, Thinking About Memoir by Abigail Thomas, Writing the Sacred Journey by Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew, Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies by Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, Burn this Book edited by Toni Morrison, Writing—the Sacred Art by Rami Shapiro and Aaron Shapiro, Naming the World and Other Exercises edited by Bret Anthony Johnston; and The 3 A.M. Epiphany: Uncommon Writing Exercises by Brian Kitelely.
I have a question that ought to be included here but isn't. Where do I send it?
If you have a suggestion for this page, send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Full disclosure: while I read all of the mail I receive, I am no longer able to answer it all. Since I do not expect, on my deathbed, to wish that I had spent more time in front of a computer, I am doing my best to curb my time in front of it now.
“Oh, earth, you're too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it—every, every minute?”
Thornton Wilder, Our Town