To those who say God wrote the Bible, let me reply as a writer

If He’s so perfect, why didn’t He do a better job of it? (See any masculine references here as traditional and object to them as you wish.)

Even in Hebrew, so I’m told, many key passages are unintelligible. As for the King James English, which many Protestant fundamentalists hold as inerrant (meaning flawless, perfect, unblemished), let me object. There’s a lot of clumsy translation – and outright mistranslation. Add to that the ways our own language has shifted in the centuries since. (To wit: I find myself having to retranslate many key Quaker writings from the mid-1600s on for modern readers, even those with PhD credentials. Those early Friends were conversant with the KJV lingo. Does thee understand?)

For perspective. When’s the last time you read Shakespeare? Without relying on footnotes?

More to the point. He (yes, He, in the current argument) certainly could have used a better editor, in any language. As for revisions? Let me contend that no work of language is ever perfect, it is ultimately a human artifact. Including the arcane collection known as The Bible.

For me, the best we have in those pages is all the more exalted because of that edge of imperfection and decay. It allows humanity to creep in. I’m thinking of some very cutting-edge contemporary poets, actually.

My fascination with that divine text has turned to the struggle to accurately record our own, very personal, experiences of the Holy One. Name it as best you can. And, from the other direction, the ways our own lives have reacted to the struggle from our own first-hand encounters with those haunting great mysteries.

I’ve come to see – and treasure – what we have in that book more as a set of deeply personal journals of individual and group experiences, including their failures, than as any set of how-to steps to eternity.

A writer’s humble request

Reading can be an intimate connection between an anonymous individual and a writer. The action really is one-on-one, even for a bestselling book.

Too often, though, it’s one way, like therapy with no one piping up on the other end.

Authors typically work in isolation on a work of passion and then step forward in a state of exposure. It can be especially tense if you’ve taken risks, knowing they can backfire.

Unless you’ve been there, you have no idea how much a reaction, positive or negative, can feel. There really is a shock and elation when you see that someone else “gets it.” Or even if they don’t, they’ve at least engaged.

Typically, though, there’s silence.

That’s why I’m still astonished by people who tell me they love the tone and content of my new book.

In addition, even a brief review or comment can help a writer sharpen the direction of future work.

Reactions to Quaking Dover are definitely encouraging fresh perspectives for my own public presentations around the work. Remember, one publishing house rejected the book because they detested first-person. Thankfully, I listened to a wise beta reader and reacted accordingly.

I definitely look forward to hearing your reactions. In addition, if you like the book, please leave a brief review plus stars at your retailer’s website or other places. Nothing beats word-of-mouth, either, in the book world.


My, aren’t we feeling precious?

I cringe when I hear someone extolling poets – or anyone else in a given field, say professional athletes – as a somehow superior species.

Even outstanding individuals need to be tempered as imperfect humans rather than extolled as gods.

Not that we shouldn’t keep striving toward excellence.

How do we take pride in our own accomplishments while staying humbly grounded?

A doctoral thesis dilemma

Doctoral hopefuls in English literature are often cautioned against selecting their favorite author as their dissertation subjects. So I’ve heard. Seems they’re quite likely to wind up hating everything about the person by the time their deep-dive project wraps up.

Wonder if that will happen with me and my Quaker history project before I’m done presenting it one way or another.

Not that I’d want to be addressed “Doctor.”

Making a public presentation is a two-way affair

Feedback for an author is a vital part of the equation. Reader responses and honest reviews are more than essential feedback, they’re affirmations that others care about the subject and labor. You’re no longer alone. And often, you learn things you might not come upon by mere research.

As I found one more time, to our mutual amusement, when presenting some Maine aspects of my Quaking Dover book as a local writer in town, one early Maine family that’s spelled Treworgy is pronounced TRU-wurjee.

More or less.

Well, it was originally Cornish, by way of Devonshire, and came up to this end of the state from being among the first settlers down at the other end, right across from Dover Point.

Beyond that, writing and reading are ultimately one-on-one, despite the anonymity of the reader, who may be deeply touched personally, all the same.

That’s why it’s so meaningful when you speak up.

There’s one outstanding King of Maine

The popular (and how) “king of horror” has long deserved kudos for getting so many people to read, period, especially in today’s mass-media and marketing saturation. (I refuse to say “culture.”) Plus, there’s evidence he’s a much “better” writer than his top-selling novels reflect, given his appearances as a poet under pseudonyms and a few rogue novels. He’s quite conscious of structure and a bigger picture, for one thing.

Add to that poet Donald Hall’s observation that New England has a gothic nature, which King has played in spades, and King’s own comments about today’s publishing scene in his duels with the critics, often with advice I wished I’d been able to apply to my own work, but mine remains what it is.

All I’m saying is don’t underestimate him.

  1. His upbringing, should you care, would easily fill a dark series of stories all on its own. Somehow, he managed to get back to Maine.
  2. His wife, Tabitha Spruce, seems to be much more of a muse and guiding spirit than has been acknowledged. They met in college at the University of Maine and are still married. She stayed with him through a period of heavy alcohol abuse followed by recovery and sobriety.
  3. He’s said he married her “because of the fish she cooked for me,” and his favorite foods are salmon and cheesecake.
  4. Often critically dismissed as a commercial, pop-culture writer – horror, supernatural, suspense, crime, science-fiction, and fantasy fiction – King nevertheless embodied a seriously dedicated author who spent long hours day after day at the craft. He had good reasons to return fire at the more elite literary side of the profession.
  5. He’s never left his blue-collar background. Witness his longtime residency in Bangor, Maine, where you can live in one of the city’s classic big mansions and still be one more regular guy.
  6. Despite his wealth, his politics lean left. He and his wife are active philanthropists – ranking sixth among Maine charities. It’s said no deserving child in Maine is denied a college education, thanks to the King scholarships.
  7. He’s an avid Red Sox fan. And a daughter’s a Unitarian-Universalist minister. Wanna talk about being a New Englander?
  8. His life was changed by an afternoon accident in 1999 when he was struck by a minivan while walking along a highway that left him severely injured and sent him to Florida to live through our harsh winters. Still, he writes on.
  9. He’s claimed to not use cell phones, though that was a while ago. As for other technology? There’s his recent spat with Twitter, which tried to charge him for contributing content for the platform – rather than the other way around.
  10. His 65-plus books have sold more than 400 million copies and spawned countless films, TV series and miniseries, and comic books. And still he’s advocating for the better royalties and advance payments to entry-level authors.

The King home in Bangor is a popular tourist attraction. A tree trunk outside has been transformed into a wild sculpture.

Writing versus real life

There are many reasons I spend so much butt time at the keyboard, as poet/novelist Charles Bukowski once compressed the practice.

I’ve examined some of them elsewhere, but what I’m circling back to today is the necessity of bringing some kind of order to the seeming chaos of what happens to each of us in “everyday life,” at least through the lenses of my own encounters.

What emerges is hardly objective, no matter my training in objective journalism. If anything, I lean on the hopeful side of history. The side we see as progress, even in the face of the clouds of doom.

Long ago I crossed a threshold where I couldn’t move forward without drawing on so much that had accumulated before then. I think of it as turning the compost, to give it air and enrichen future crops, worms and all. Yes, those blessed red wigglers. Or wrigglers, depending on your spelling.

Am I self-deluded? Or is my practice of writing one of prayer, even in the face of so much hopelessness?

What is life, anyway, apart from what we experience subjectively?

So here we are, all the same.

Keep writing, those of you in this vein. No matter the outcome.


Cutting the book’s trim size cut my royalty

You might think it’s a minor thing, deciding whether your new book should be 9-by-6 inches or the usual trade paperback 8½-by-5½ inch dimension, but the smaller trim size does look and feel more professional, even elegant.

It’s easier to retrieve from some of my bookshelves, too.

It comes at an added cost, though – an additional $1.40 or so, out of my royalty.

You wouldn’t expect that for the smaller size, would you?

At some point, that might be the swing factor in raising the cover price.

For now, I simply want this one to be just right. Besides, it will still take a lot of sales for that difference to add up, and we are dealing with the story of a small faith community which just might not have that much interest for anyone else unless this takes off like, well, something about covered bridges in Iowa.


Having a back cover, too

One big difference between paper books and ebooks is the back cover. The digital versions simply don’t have one – the blurb has to go on the retailer’s website instead.

Yes, the two formats have their differences. An ebook is more like a scroll, but one that can be easily searched and rewound.

A paper book, on the other hand, is more like a box, with the covers working like the wrapping on a present, full of enticement. Even the lettering on the spine can work that way.

Better yet, the back cover can start talking to you even before you open the pages. “Come on in,” you can hear it address you, even in a crowded bookstore.