Saturday, February 7, 2009

Writers and Writing at the Point

The 14th Annual Writers' Symposium by the Sea at Point Loma Nazarene University has been going on all week, and Judith and her friend Carolyn made it out to the Point to see Luis Urrera Tuesday night. I was able to join them on Friday for two seminars, Brian McLaren at 2 PM and Christopher Buckley at 7:30 PM.

Brian McLaren was amazing. I took two full pages of notes while he spoke and was impressed greatly by his most recent book: Finding Our Way which explores how the return to ancient Christian practice can help to revitalize the postmodern church. It was enjoyable to learn more about him: he was an English major, not a religion student, in college, and then a university writing professor. So we went into seminary with a background in literature which influences how he sees the world and how he views the Bible. After 24 years as a pastor, he began writing and loves to write, claiming that his personal discipline in composing weekly sermons helped him to become a very disciplined (and quite prolific) writer. As a writer, he says that he has discovered success in "what is most personal to me [the writer] is most personal to you [the reader]."

McLaren was first published ten years ago and has only been writing full-time for three years. He is committed to the idea of needing to create something new using ancient ways. Our continuity, McLaren says, is in faith and practices rather than in doctrine. The practices that come from before modern times are the ones that can lead the postmodern church to renewal.

When asked about giving advice to beginning writers, McLaren replied that there are many great writers who say a lot of great things, and that the Internet creates great writers. Through blogs, writers can receive instant feedback on their work and don't have to wait to be published before they consider themselves writers.

Between seminars, Judith, Carolyn and I drove out to Cabrillo Point at the very end of Point Loma to take photos of the lighthouse (see my 365 photo blog and Facebook album) and the ocean between storms. Judith enjoys photography even more than I do, so we both were snapping away at the beautiful scenery.

After a lovely fish dinner at Red Sails Inn on Shelter Island (excellent calamari!) and a browse through Bookstar (a Barnes and Noble store in the converted Loma movie theatre), we drove back to the PLNU campus for Christopher Buckley's session. Buckley, the son of William F. Buckley, was a speechwriter for George HW Bush and is now a political satirist and writer. This last session of the Symposium was co-sponsored by the San Diego City Club, a political organization. As we settled in and waited for the session to begin, I noticed a man near the front chatting with several other men, and he looked quite familiar: The salt-and-pepper hair. The hooked nose. The hunched posture and motion of the hands close to the body. I leaned over to Judith and asked her if she thought he was Dukakis. Sure enough, shortly he was introduced bya gentleman from the City Club as the former Governor of Massachusetts and former Democratric Presidential Nominee in 1988 when he ran against ... George HW Bush.

Christopher Buckley was rather untameable. At one point, Buckley quipped, "I spent four years [in school] with monks. Not a single one laid a hand on me, except to beat me senseless. {pause} Was I *that* unattractive?" He also mentioned rather carelessly, "Writing satire in America today is pointless. You're competing against USA Today." Dr. Dean Nelson, the founder of the Journalism Department and the interviewer of the session that was being filmed by UCSD-TV for showing in April, quickly lost control and just let Buckley roll, only reigning him in after Buckley let the f-bomb drop. On a Christian campus. With PLNU President Brower present.

On the way out, Judith introduced me to the people who run the San Diego Christian Writers' Guild. I very much enjoyed meeting them, and Jennie was very encouraging about our writers' group here in our small town which I facilitate and assured me that she and her husband may come up later this month for our all-day Writers' Workshop with Dean Nelson. All together, it was a very satisfying and encouraging day.

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