“We Stood Upon Stars” Blogging for Books Review

“Mountaintops give vision to life but cannot sustain it.”

5128icjhhxl

Roger W. Thompson’s We Stood Upon Stars is on the surface a sweeping array of travel memoirs in essay form. But woven throughout the collection are strands of self-discovery, discovering God, familial ties, and the experiences that define and shape Thompson–and all of us.

Rooted in camping, fishing, and outdoor adventuring experiences, Stars is packed with beautiful descriptions of creation, from famous sites like Old Faithful to quiet, secret fishing holes. In Thompson’s rich language, beautiful scenes unfold before the reader — vistas and mountains, oceans and lakes, small towns and isolated plains. You truly can see each place he visits through his detailed prose.

Woven throughout are Thompson’s thoughts on masculinity, at times toxic, and his desire to see his sons become men. As a female reader, I didn’t always connect–and at times disagreed–with this strand of the book. However, I appreciated Thompson’s recognition that his ideas about masculinity and manhood are often twisted, and that the core of what he wants to teach his sons is reliability, presence, and curiosity.

Stars is quietly religious as we share in some beautiful moments of Thompson’s life as he encounters God out in creation. As a reader who also seeks the wildness and openness of the outdoors as a way to encounter God, I connected with this element of Thompson’s essays.

More than merely a travel memoir, Stars is a beautiful collection accounting the ways in which the places we go, and the experiences we have there, become who we are.

**I was provided a copy of this book by the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.

The Book You Love Enough

Things have been quiet here on the blog, and that’s because things in my writing life have been quiet. And by quiet, I mean… non-existent. The last few months have been exceptionally difficult for me for lots of personal reasons, and writing just fell away. It always does.

But it also always comes back. Or I come back to it. A few days ago I was gripped suddenly by the urge to write. To get back into my book and finish my revision. It happened completely out of nowhere. I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with my life/career/etc, and to be completely honest… I think part of me is entirely resigned to never being a published author. It doesn’t happen for everyone, and I question if I have what it takes. Can I work hard enough for long enough? Can I stay focused? Can I balance writing and everything else?

To this point, the answers to those questions are no. And yet every time I try to walk away from writing forever, just put down my pen and quit… I can’t. And maybe writing will only ever be something I do for the love of it. Maybe I will never get to share my stories. I hope that isn’t true, but I’m becoming increasingly OK with the possibility.

I think part of this development has to do with the manuscript I’m working on currently. Usually, if I’m off the writing wagon for too long, the way I jump back in is to start something new. Starting new projects is easy for me. I’m always having ideas, and first drafts are the best playground. New projects are so fun and exciting. They could go anywhere! And most importantly, it doesn’t matter if they end up as giant messes.

I have never felt compelled strongly to return to a project in order to revise it. This MS is done. It’s been done for a long time. And by “done” I mean “complete.” The story is told, but it still needs a lot of work.

I have a love/hate relationship with revising, as I think most writers do. I find it tedious. I find it frustrating. I can’t just let sloppy parts stick around anymore, like I can in first draft mode. But I also find revising comforting, in a way. I know what needs to be fixed… now I just have to fix it. Instead of finding/creating all the pieces to the puzzle, like in a first draft, now it’s a matter of having all the pieces and just fitting them together in the right way.

This ramble is all to say that I think this book might really be The One. The One all writers talk about. The One to get me an agent, to get me published, to get people reading my work. Most published authors I know who talk about getting published always talk about just having the stamina, the stubbornness, the love to keep going. To face rejection. To achieve your goals.

You have to love writing. You have to want it. But you also have to just flat-out love whatever project you’re working on. Whatever project you’re championing. Whatever project you’re hoping snags you an agent and a book deal and readers. Because you and that book are in it for the long haul. The One.

In that way, I think this could be The One. But more importantly, to me, I think this book is The One that is teaching me that writing is here to stay. For lots of reasons, I’ve had a tortuous relationship with writing. I keep leaving and coming back, leaving and coming back. And as I’ve evolved as a writer, my ideas about writing and writing as a profession have changed. Writing means different things to different people, and for the longest time I think I was trying to fit what it meant to other people into my own life. But writing means its own thing for me, and I’m glad I’ve been able to grow and see that.

I do hope this book is The One. The One to get me where I want to be professionally.

But I know at the very least that this is the book I love enough. The One I love enough to come back to over and over. The One I love enough to not skip the work it needs. The One I love enough to stick with even when new projects are calling.

So I’m committed to revising this book. I’m setting a really strict and potentially unreachable goal: I’m hoping/planning to revise all 94,017 words of it during Camp NaNoWriMo. (Confession: I’ve already started, in order to make that goal a little more realistic.) I don’t know if it’ll happen, but I hope it will be enough of a jump start. If I’m not finished by the end of April, I hope to have enough momentum to keep going until I am finished.

Because this is the book I love enough.

~Teresa

Take Your Broken Heart, Make it Into Art

Recently, Meryl Streep quoted the late and great Carrie Fisher at the Golden Globes, saying, “Take your broken heart, make it into art.”

Since the election in November, my creative life has stalled. Only this month have I gotten back into the swing of things by printing out my manuscript and starting a revision plan. And yesterday, I revised the first chapter.

It felt really important to start this work yesterday, because of what today is. Today is an embarrassment and a tragedy. Today is another bullet point in an American history fraught with racism, sexism, bigotry, religious intolerance, greed, and hypocrisy. Today reminds us all that white privilege is alive and well, that people put party affiliations in front of morals, truth, and other people, and that wicked, power-hungry, greedy people can still do damage.

Reverend William Barber reminds us that “this is not the worst thing we’ve ever seen.” The country has endured the attempted genocide of its native peoples, slavery, Jim Crow, and periods in which non-white people and women alike were not permitted to vote, among so many other devastating elements of our nation’s history.

This is not the worst thing we’ve ever seen. It is, however, a step back towards those very events that are the worst we’ve seen in this country.

I have found myself feeling more powerless and hopeless than not these past few months. And I feel the need for this honesty is important: part of this powerlessness and hopelessness comes from the fact that as a white, straight woman, the effects of this disastrous administration on me will be limited. Nonexistent? Absolutely not. But limited.

I fear for my non-white friends, for my non-Christian friends, for my fellow women, for the refugees and immigrants whom I welcome with open arms, for the LGBT+ community, for those in my generation already struggling with debt and lack of jobs, for those of us who rely on the ACA, for our beautiful land and natural resources, for the creatures who inhabit it, and for so many other groups. The negative effects of this administration will leak out into every area of life, and that shakes me. Within me burns a desire to fix everything, but I am continually confronted with my inability to do that very thing.

And so I write. I create. I tell stories where evil always loses. I tell stories where people put others before themselves; stories of love, of selflessness, of courage, of growth, of honesty, of the fight for justice. It does not feel like enough to me, but it is what I have. It is one element of my resistance.

Art matters. Out of my own bias, I’ll say that stories matter especially. We get drawn into worlds and lives and experiences that are not our own, and our own perceptions can widen. Our own capacities for empathy can grow. Our views of the world and the people in it can change.

So get to creating, artists. The world needs us. Take your broken heart, make it into art.

~Teresa