Contextual Moments Blog
Baby It's Cold Outside
Last week, a friend introduced me to a wonderful book, All Creation Waits by Gayle Boss who wrote this book with her own children in mind to make the Advent season, those four weeks prior to Christmas, more meaningful than the typical chocolate coin calendars. Boss has since adapted the book for adults. Her short animal essays (twenty-five of them) beautifully capture the hours, days, and weeks prior to the numbing cold of winter each animal must endure and ultimately adapt, from turtle to chipmunk to fox and even bear. These animal stories have much to teach us about our own relationship with darkness and cold and self-preservation.
All I Want for Christmas...
...is my book to sell. Or, that an elusive influencer out there would read my book and post a picture of it along with a kudo or two. Or, a producer’s friend would send him the next great idea for a film adaptation of my book! Is it too much to ask?
What is it about this time of year that has us all dreaming of sugarplums? Oh, I don’t mean real sugarplums. Look them up, they are somewhere between fruitcake and plum pudding. No doubt, it’s an acquired taste. Back in 2008, Chef Peter Greweling told NPR Host Linda Wertheimer that he thought sugarplums might wander back into popularity like they were in the 19th century. Sorry, Peter, that hasn’t happened. But I digress.
What a Day for a Daydream
For those who don’t remember, "Daydreamin” is a song by the Lovin’ Spoonful back in 1966. That really dates me, I know, so I might as well confess that I was still in high school. But what is odd to me is how an old tune like this one can suddenly land in my mind and not let go. It’s become a mantra of sorts.
The main verse I sing is this one, but of course, I change the word “boy” to “girl” and my “bundle of joy” is usually an event coming up.
What a day for a daydream
What a day for a daydreamin' boy girl.
And now I'm lost in a daydream
Dreamin' 'bout my bundle of joy.
Here’s a surprise: I’ve started writing the sequel to Children in the City of Czars. That sounds crazy and I agree 100%. But when the story started rolling out of my head, I knew I had to hold on to the Muse as she floated by, or I might lose her.
Elizabeth Gilbert wrote a good bit about the Muse in Big Magic, Creative Living Beyond Fear. Funny, it wasn’t that many weeks ago that I wrote about Gilbert in a different vein, when she delayed the publication of her Russian book which, at the time, felt like it might impact mine. But talking about the reality of a Muse, I’m right with her. ...
While working through all the “best practices” and advice for a successful book launch, one of the recommendations is to post a countdown. As I think about countdowns, I realize the very act of creating a countdown has layers of emotional significance. (I have to thank my AI intern for some of these ideas.)
Anticipation: Undoubtedly, this is the most indicative of how I am feeling about my new book coming out. As each day draws me closer, I can feel my insides start to murmur. It’s not a full rolling boil yet, but a kind of trembling of the waters. Most people might recognize this feeling of anticipation for a personal event in their lives, like a wedding, the birth of a child, a graduation, or a big vacation. But I can attest, a new book coming out is very much like the wait for a new baby, both in planning and in wondering how it will “come out.” God forbid someone calls my baby ugly.
While promoting my first novel, Sister Jane, many people asked me if the story was true. Or worse, they’d ask if it was my life story. The answer to both is “No.” Those questions caught me off guard. If the story was true (in a factual way), wouldn’t we have heard about a miracle worker who had a “batting average” of 1000? And if it was my story, would I be out here hawking a book instead of hanging out with sick people? I’m being ultra-catty, I know, but honestly.
Who are the Orphans?
I am an orphan. But then, most people my age are. It’s the natural flow of life, children outlive their parents, and the baton is passed.
My father died when I was nine and apparently, in that moment, I became a “single orphan.” I didn’t know I had a label, but I certainly knew what it was like to be raised by a single mother. In some ways, it was for the best. My father was twenty-five years older than my mother, and I believe the speed of change for a non-English speaking older gentleman would have become more challenging than bearable. It was hard enough for mother to keep up, but she did keep up until 2004, dying at ninety-one.
Circle of Awareness
Elizabeth Gilbert and Me
Doors and Liminal Space
I have since learned that there is a moment in between as one passes through a door, leaving one place and entering the next. It’s called liminal space, a period of transition. It's a gap, and it can be physical (like a doorway), emotional (like a divorce or widowhood) or metaphorical (like a decision).
In the Silence
What happens in the silence?
Back in my acting school days, we were often encouraged to dwell in the small silences between sentences—to not feel compelled to speak straight through, but to allow the character to think, to consider, to ruminate, if you will. And then going even further back, I remember a one-act play, actually a “sketch”, by the avant-garde playwright, Harold Pinter, in which silences were a key aspect. Of course, the two characters were both in midlife and I was in my twenties; what did I know of broken marriages and broken lives where silence reigned? That would come much later.
An Author Posse
The Path to Healing
Opposite of Faith is Not Doubt, but Certitude
Why a Lenten Journal
I don’t remember when I became intrigued by the church calendar. Certainly not while I was active in Charismatic and Evangelical churches, where the only calendars celebrated were Christmas and Easter week. At my Methodist church, we acknowledged Advent with the lighting of candles on a huge wreath (3 purple and 1 pink) but they didn’t have much meaning for me. When my late husband and I adopted our children (aged 4 & 5), we had a variety of Advent calendars, one with tiny books that told the Christmas story and two others that involved daily chocolate. I don’t think I need to say which calendars were the most popular.
Best of 2021 But It's 2022
Writing a Story is Like Going on a Date
Looking Through the Fog
I have now had several opportunities to chat with people who have read my book and I am gratified when they pick up on one of the core themes that is underneath the "miracle" story: self-discovery. Jane Freedle had no idea who she really was by the time of her husband's death. For most of her life, she had been under the thumb of two men in her life, her father and then her husband.
What the? Time is Flying!
- Sister Jane received a starred review from Kirkus Reviews.
- Sister Jane is now available in four major library systems in Maryland (Harford, Baltimore, Carroll, and Cecil). More to come.
- I have made several personal appearances and I have half a dozen book club appearances in the next two months.
- My book is available in several locations in town and I've had people yelling from across a street, "Irm, I LOVE your book!" It's quite humbling.
- Last week, I recorded my first podcast interview which will air Sept 13th.