I will sit with you
in the fear and uncertainty
of what the future holds.
I will sit with-
the fatigue –
I will sit with you as
you see the journey through.
I will sit with you
as the light of Truth
and heals you
and makes you Whole.
And once Whole,
I’ll offer you a hand up
to stand up
to speak out
to go on
watching and waiting
to sit beside.
Hope is a strong anchor
mired in dreams and visions
holding fast against the wind.
Hope is a strong anchor
settled securely and soundly
Hope is a strong anchor
nestled deep within
the what’s next
the what is to come.
I clicked “save draft” and forgot about the post. I knew it wasn’t quite right and that my attention was in two or three places, after all it was Thanksgiving week, so I decided not to hit publish, and to come back to it later.
But when I came back to it, it still wasn’t right. There was a tone, a bitterness to the post that I didn’t want in my writing, not here at least. Maybe in the journal I keep by my bed. Maybe my eyes were the only eyes to see these words. Maybe this saved draft would never be published, but instead would live its life out in my bedside journal. Yeah, that was probably a better place for them.
I could have so easily pushed “publish.” The two buttons are so close together. It takes no more effort for me to hit “publish” than it does to push “save draft”, an amazing phenomenon of the digital world we find ourselves living and communicating within, but the editor in me decided not to publish, making the conscious decision that there are words to be said here in this space and perhaps more importantly words not to be said here in this space.
It reminds me of the letters I wrote in middle school when I was so upset by the latest lunchtime seating arrangement drama. I can remember coming home from school and being so upset and my mom suggesting writing a letter explaining why I was so upset to the person with whom I was upset. Yes! I thought. Yes, I will tell her exactly what I think of her new seating arrangement.
And so I would write, scribbling furiously, and many, many times as I folded the note with one of the special note folding techniques I had practiced at recess, I would decide that the note was too mean, the subject not as important as I had just felt it was, but I felt better having written those words and releasing them from my own self even though they would never be published by giving them to someone else.
Perhaps the most sacred act we can engage in this Advent season is waiting to hit publish or post or send and being mindful of the powerful impact of our words on other people’s hearts.
My friend Elisabeth and I have a weekly podcast about publishing, running, dogs, and whatever else is on our minds that day appropriately called Thinking Out Loud. I had to do some convincing her to actually podcast with me and as we did our weekly podcast, I still had to convince her at times not to go and retreat under her desk because it’s scary putting your words out there for people to hear and read. What if someone doesn’t like something you’ve said? What if you say something wrong (I do this all the time on our podcast, just listen to this week’s episode!)? What if no one listens?
But there’s also something powerful and mystical about speaking into the air. You don’t know who will hear your conversation. You don’t know if your experience will connect and help someone else who is trying to start their own business, trying to write a book, or simply trying to discover they are not alone. You don’t know, but you speak into the air and hope those words, that conversation, will land where it needs to land.
And you do this again and again, week after week, to remind yourself that you are not alone and that there’s someone else out there who is working just as hard as you are to create and to offer something to the world. Something that might inspire. Something that might challenge. Something that might just change how people see each other.
You have no idea if it will work, but you still keep speaking into the air, hoping it will.
In my work as a publisher, I encounter many people who tell me they have a great idea for a book. I find fewer people who tell me they are writing a book. I find even fewer who tell me they have written a book.
But lately, I have encountered more and more people who have told me they have been told not to write about the very thing they believe they should write about: their personal experiences. They have been advised by editors not to relay their personal story. Curious about the reasoning they were given not to write, I asked them a little bit about their stories. I quickly discovered that these people were told not to write their stories because of what their stories would reveal about the church, about the world, and about how life really is.
Whether we like to admit it or not, we crave the story with the happily ever after. We balk and boycott stories that reveal the brokenness that exists in the world because somehow being reminded of the brokenness in the world, reveals the brokenness in ourselves. We find ourselves telling people not to tell their stories, silencing the brokenness in the world so that we too can silence the nagging reality of our own brokenness.
These would-be authors are often those who have been oppressed and silenced throughout history: women, children, blacks, immigrants. They tell me that the advice they’ve been given is that no publisher would ever publish a story so raw and controversial. I tell them, maybe you just haven’t found the right publisher.
I tell them write your story and send it to me. The world needs to know your story.
Two and a half years ago, I got a crazy idea to start an independent press. I had been working for Harrelson Marketing with authors, nonprofits, and musicians trying to help them find their voices as I pursued the same in seminary. What I found was that authors, especially were not getting much money for their creative work. In fact, many of the authors I worked with were up to their ears in debt to their publishers.
I knew I could do it better and fairer.
What I didn’t know is how to publish a book. After hours and hours of frustration, reading, asking questions, and researching and pricing printing options, Harrelson Press released its first book by Sheila Ingle called Brave Elizabeth. This is the story of Elizabeth Jackson, mother of President Andrew Jackson and how she survived as a single mom in the midst of the American Revolution with boys who all went to fight. Reading her story writing so eloquently by Sheila inspired me to be that kind of brave woman.
Our second book was Women’s Self-Defense: being sure-footed never to be a victim, which recounts the stories of women who have been abused and attacked as well as practical self-defense instruction. Denise’s stories and expertise as a Women’s Self-Defense instructor reminded me that there are stories that are hard to hear and hard to read that need to be shared. They need to be shared so that they don’t keep being more and more women’s stories. They need to be told so that we are all aware of the world we are living in and that it full of hurt and pain.
Our third book was Stacy Sergent‘s Being Called Chaplain. In this book, Stacy shares her experience being the presence of Christ in hospital rooms and waiting rooms in the hardest situations as a hospital chaplain. She is honest about her struggle to keep her own faith in the midst of seeing how fragile and unfair life is.
Since then, it’s been hard to keep up! We now have two picture books: Walking with Eliza and The Journey of a Flower.
I started Harrelson Press to do publishing better, but what I’ve found is life-changing stories and dear friends who have been brave enough to share their stories. They have reminded me that the publishing industry isn’t dead. Ebooks and print books will continue to sell when there are stories as good as these.
I can’t wait to see what stories I’ll find in 2016!
We have now published 3 books in print and after agonizing after each and every detail of the formatting and book cover, it makes it hard for me to read other books.
I notice things I didn’t notice before. (Is it just me or are all the copies of Ken Follett’s Edge of Eternity printed crooked on the first 5 pages? No, really they are. I got a ruler out and measured it.) In the midst of noticing these things, it distracts me from reading the book, even books I have been longing to read.
I wonder about the glue choice and why the publisher didn’t upgrade or perfect bind their books. I wonder about bleeds and spacing and why the print is so small in so many books.
Sure, there are things about our own books that I wonder if we’ll change in the next printing because the fact of the matter is publishing isn’t a stale profession and is changing more and more everyday. I wonder these things, but I can’t help but smile when I hear:
Oh wow, you can actually read this font!
The spacing between these lines makes me so happy.
This cover feels so good.
It’s the little details that count. I know we haven’t been at this long, but I sure am proud of what we’re doing at Harrelson Press for our authors and our readers.
We’re taking care of the details so you can enjoy the awesome stories our authors have written.
I just clicked the validate button on 50,000 words I wrote during the month of November joining scores of other amazing people who do this crazy self-challenge every year. As a newbie, I was overwhelmed by the support and encouragement express to someone who had never participated before. I was also especially grateful for the people who patiently explained all the lingo to me, especially Elisbeth who introduced me to this super cool culture and experience.
It took over 15,00o words on the final day (and meals provided by my incredible husband who lovingly kept telling me, “Sit! Write!”), which made me hesitant to claim victory or near victory until every word had been written, but I have the starts of a novel. (Please don’t ask me if it’s good because right now I don’t particularly want to look at it or a screen for quite awhile!) After this experience, I am sure of two things: 1)Writing is seriously hard work. 2)The authors who entrust their manuscripts to me to read, to comment on, and to publish are rockstars.
And now I am going to find some fingers stretches and leg stretches to recover!
As we start out,
I marvel at the neighborhood
Seat belts fastening.
I wonder what they are going to do.
They are going to work,
but what is work for each of them.
A place to wear heels,
bring coffee in tumblers,
bags full of work stuff.
Do they like their jobs?
Are they close to getting a vacation break?
Wondering stretches a two-mile plan into a four-mile reality. As body, mind, and soul align with each step, each thought, a prayer forms to notice more honeysuckle and cats treed by pups passing, and people whose lives I know nothing about.