Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Saint Luke: Physician, Apostle, and Evangelist


Partially from the Archives....

From AmericanCatholic.org's Saint of the Day e-mail for today:

Saint Luke

Saint of the Day for October 18

(d. c. 84)


Saint Luke’s Story
Luke wrote one of the major portions of the New Testament, a two-volume work comprising the third Gospel and Acts of the Apostles. In the two books he shows the parallel between the life of Christ and that of the Church. He is the only Gentile Christian among the Gospelwriters. Tradition holds him to be a native of Antioch, and Paul calls him “our beloved physician.” His Gospel was probably written between 70 and 85 A.D.
Luke appears in Acts during Paul’s second journey, remains at Philippi for several years until Paul returns from his third journey, accompanies Paul to Jerusalem, and remains near him when he is imprisoned in Caesarea. During these two years, Luke had time to seek information and interview persons who had known Jesus. He accompanied Paul on the dangerous journey to Rome where he was a faithful companion.
Luke’s unique character may best be seen by the emphases of his Gospel, which has been given a number of subtitles:
1) The Gospel of Mercy
2) The Gospel of Universal Salvation
3) The Gospel of the Poor
4) The Gospel of Absolute Renunciation
5) The Gospel of Prayer and the Holy Spirit
6) The Gospel of Joy

Reflection

Luke wrote as a Gentile for Gentile Christians. His Gospel and Acts of the Apostles reveal his expertise in classic Greek style as well as his knowledge of Jewish sources. There is a warmth to Luke’s writing that sets it apart from that of the other synoptic Gospels, and yet it beautifully complements those works. The treasure of the Scriptures is a true gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church.

Saint Luke is the Patron Saint of:

Artists/Painters
Brewers
Butchers
Notaries
Physicians/Surgeons

* * * * *
I love how the Anglican Church celebrates the feast days of the Biblical Saints--the Saints of the New Testament--while still seeing every follower of Christ as a saint as well. 

Here is the Collect, the prayer prayed collectively by the Anglican Communion today in remembrance of Saint Luke:

SAINT LUKE: OCTOBER 18
ALMIGHTY God, you inspired your holy servant Luke the Physician to write an orderly account of the Gospel and of the healing power of your Son; As he delivered your restoring words of wholeness, deliver us now from all sickness of body and soul; Through the sacrifice of your Son, Jesus Christ, who lives and rules with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen. (Scriptural references for this prayer: Luke 1.1-2; Colossians 4.14; Proverbs 22.1-2; 1Timothy 6.3-4)

Each Friday morning for the past thirteen years, Father Acker and I (and now often Father Gregory) meet for weekly healing services including Morning Prayer and Holy Communion. During this time of prayer and praise, we pray this portion of The Liturgy for Healing (Book of Common Prayer 2011 page 145):

Bless physicians, nurses, all all others who minister to the suffering; grant them wisdom and skill, sympathy and patience. 

[Response:] Lord, have mercy upon us.

And as we also do each Friday, we pray this portion of the Holy Communion service called The Prayer for the Church (Book of Common Prayer 2011 page 110):

And we humbly ask you in your goodness, O Lord, to comfort, visit, and relieve all those who [are in need of your healing touch, remembering especially (and we pray for God's healing to be upon those we mention by name and affliction) and] all those who in this transitory life are in trouble, sorrow, need, sickness, danger, distress, or any other difficulty; Relieve and strengthen, help and deliver them by your mighty hand. Lord, in your mercy;

[Response:] Hear our prayer. 
So as we thank God today for the example He gave us of a wonderful human physician, apostle, and evangelist in Saint Luke, we also thank Him for His healing touch...in His timing. Some Christians (and even some pastors and elders) have been suspicious of my fifteen-year illness, claiming that either I didn't have enough faith for God to heal me or that I had such sin in my life that He was refusing to heal me--the usual evangelical arguments about illness. 
Our women's Bible study at Pine Valley Community Church is working our way through Kay Arthur's Precept studies in Romans; this year we're tackling Part Three: Romans 8-11. And in the video this week (which were filmed when Kay Arthur sported the fluffy hair and "colorful" fashions of the '80s!), Kay assured us that God brings suffering into our lives to refine us, to help us to become more loving, more compassionate, and more like Christ. I was relieved that she didn't follow the "name it and claim it" factions of evangelical thought--in fact, she gently disparaged the whole philosophy...by name). I felt strengthened and inspired by her thoughts on Romans 8 and Christian suffering. 

It is also in the stories of the Catholic Saints that I've found value in physical suffering--as well as in the Psalms which we read through each month in The Book of Common Prayer 2011. The Psalter breaks down the 150 Psalms into 60 readings, 30 for Morning Prayer and 30 for Evening Prayer. So the first few psalms are arranged under Day 1 Morning and Day 1 Evening, each numbered day corresponding to the day of the month. And it is in the saints such as Saint Teresa of Avila who endured illness for most of her life that I have found great consolation and inspiration:
Detail of St. Theresa of Avila by François Gérard

"Let nothing trouble you, let nothing make you afraid. All things pass away. God never changes. Patience obtains everything. God alone is enough." 
-- Saint Teresa of Avila

"God calls to us in countless little ways all the time. Through illnesses and suffering and through sorrow he calls to us. Through a truth glimpsed fleetingly in a state of prayer he calls to us. No matter how halfhearted such insights may be, God rejoices whenever we learn what he is trying to teach us.”   
--Saint Teresa of Avila, The Interior Castle

"One must not think that a person who is suffering is not praying. He is offering up his sufferings to God, and many a time he is praying much more truly than one who goes away by himself and meditates his head off, and, if he has squeezed out a few tears, thinks that is prayer." --St. Teresa of Avila 

And thus we return to Saint Luke the Physician who allowed The Great Physician to work through him in traveling with Saint Paul and in writing the Gospel According to Saint Luke and The Acts of the Apostles.
Soli Deo Gloria,



Monday, October 9, 2017

The Season of Michaelmas



Updated from the Archives...

Just over a week ago on 29 September, we celebrated the Feast Day of St. Michael and the Archangels. This is a feast that I was not terribly familiar with, so I was glad to read an informative explanation in the "Saint of the Day" e-mail from AmericanCatholic.org:

Angels—messengers from God—appear frequently in Scripture, but only Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael are named.

Michael appears in Daniel's vision as "the great prince" who defends Israel against its enemies; in the Book of Revelation, he leads God's armies to final victory over the forces of evil. Devotion to Michael is the oldest angelic devotion, rising in the East in the fourth century. The Church in the West began to observe a feast honoring Michael and the angels in the fifth century.

Gabriel also makes an appearance in Daniel's visions, announcing Michael's role in God's plan. His best-known appearance is an encounter with a young Jewish girl named Mary, who consents to bear the Messiah.

Raphael's activity is confined to the Old Testament story of Tobit. There he appears to guide Tobit's son Tobiah through a series of fantastic adventures which lead to a threefold happy ending: Tobiah's marriage to Sarah, the healing of Tobit's blindness and the restoration of the family fortune.

The memorials of Gabriel (March 24) and Raphael (October 24) were added to the Roman calendar in 1921. The 1970 revision of the calendar joined their feasts to Michael's.

Each of these archangels performs a different mission in Scripture: Michael protects; Gabriel announces; Raphael guides. Earlier belief that inexplicable events were due to the actions of spiritual beings has given way to a scientific world-view and a different sense of cause and effect. Yet believers still experience God's protection, communication and guidance in ways which defy description. We cannot dismiss angels too lightly.

As I've read much British literature over the years (mostly in graduate school but also for my own enjoyment), I have come across the term "Michaelmas" as a British holiday (along with "Candlemas" which occurs on 2 February) and never knew what it celebrated; I only knew it occurred sometime in autumn. So for my own edification and perhaps for yours as well, I discovered an article about Michaelmas from the Historic-UK Web site (read complete entry here: Michaelmas):

Michaelmas, or the Feast of Michael and All Angels, is celebrated on the 29th of September every year. As it falls near the equinox, the day is associated with the beginning of autumn and the shortening of days; in England, it is one of the “quarter days”.

There are traditionally four “quarter days” in a year (Lady Day (25th March), Midsummer (24th June), Michaelmas (29th September) and Christmas (25th December)). They are spaced three months apart, on religious festivals, usually close to the solstices or equinoxes. They were the four dates on which servants were hired, rents due or leases begun. It used to be said that harvest had to be completed by Michaelmas, almost like the marking of the end of the productive season and the beginning of the new cycle of farming. It was the time at which new servants were hired or land was exchanged and debts were paid. This is how it came to be for Michaelmas to be the time for electing magistrates and also the beginning of legal and university terms.

St Michael is one of the principal angelic warriors, protector against the dark of the night and the Archangel who fought against Satan and his evil angels. As Michaelmas is the time that the darker nights and colder days begin - the edge into winter - the celebration of Michaelmas is associated with encouraging protection during these dark months. It was believed that negative forces were stronger in darkness and so families would require stronger defences during the later months of the year.

The Scripture readings for Morning Prayer included Revelation 12:7-12 regarding Michael the Archangel and the War in Heaven:

7 Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, 8 but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 9 And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. 10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers [1] has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. 11 And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. 12 Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”
(English Standard Version)

In the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, the Book of Common Prayer 2011, and in The Divine Hours series edited by Phyllis Tickle, I found several Collects to pray on Michaelmas, and I liked this one the best -- from Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime, Midday Prayer for Monday nearest September 28:

Everlasting God, you have ordained and constituted the ministries of the angels and men in a wonderful order. Mercifully grant now that, as your holy angels always serve and worship you in heaven, so by your appointment they may help and defend us on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Christian season of Michaelmas lasts from 29 September all the way to the beginning of Advent, so we have much time to pray this song during Morning Prayer, immediately following the First Reading of Holy Scripture in the Book of Common Prayer 2011

The Angels' Song of the Lamb (Magna et mirabilia):
Great and amazing are your deeds, 
O Lord God the Almighty.
Just and true are your ways,
O King of the nations.
Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your Name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come and worship you,
     for your righteous acts have been revealed. (Revelation 15.3-4)


So there -- we have the historical and spiritual background of Michaelmas as well as Scripture and prayer with which to celebrate this day and season, remembering that although the Archangels are both wonderful in their beauty and terrible in their fury, they are created beings, made by the King of kings and the Lord of lords for His purposes and for our help. We humans, formed in the likeness of God, were created but "a little lower than the angels, crowned with glory and honor" (Psalm 8:5), made by the Magnificent One, the Lord God of Hosts.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Yes--Another Bundle of Book Reviews!

(Image: my Darcy quote necklace, courtesy of Cass Grafton and Ada Bright upon the release of their wonderful book, The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen.)

I read voraciously, and I'm struggling to catch up with my spring and summer reading that I reviewed on Goodreads--some in more detail than others, depending upon how quickly I flew through them. My "summer treat" of a month (okay, I admit it: two months!) of Kindle Unlimited resulted in briefer reviews with fewer details, especially since I don't have access to the books to look up a few facts here and there; when I'm reading up to four to five books per week, they often blend together. (Certainly the Pride and Prejudice variations get all mushed up in my head since they pretty much feature the same characters each time!)

So here are my reviews of six books, only half of them P&P variations...and all from the same series by a single author. But we'll start and end with some classics! Enjoy!!

Anne of InglesideAnne of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In my not-so-humble opinion, L.M. Montgomery writes some of the most beautiful prose in the English language. Her imagination sparkles through Anne, now a mother of six, and her children who have the same "scope for imagination" as their mother. This novel covers about six years in the lives of the young Blythes, with stories woven around different happenings to each of the children, thus paving the way for the next book in the series, Rainbow Valley, which, written 20 years before Anne of Ingleside, again shares stories of the young Blythes as well as the addition of a new family in the manse, a family torn apart by the death of the pastor's wife and their children's mother.

I've read the Anne series so many times that my paperback books are falling to pieces; someday I'd like to get a nice hardcover set, perhaps including the newly-published ninth book in the series, although I do have almost all of them on my Kindle.

These books are some of the sweetest and most poignant depictions the minds, hearts, and souls of children. L.M. Montgomery is a masterful storyteller as well as a splendidly-sensitive writer. Each of her books is a treasure.

The Honorable Mr. Darcy The Honorable Mr. Darcy by Jennifer Joy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Darcy is accused of murdering George Wickham during the Netherfield Ball while he and Elizabeth were locked in the library. If Darcy confesses the truth to clear his name, Elizabeth will be forced to marry him. But who actually killed the scoundrel? A mystery which Elizabeth seeks to solve...and which places her in mortal danger...with Darcy to the rescue!

This was my second reading of this suspenseful mystery novel; I'm not sure when I read the first, but when one remembers "whodunnit" only a third of the way through the book, it becomes obvious that one has read said mystery novel. I remember being quite shocked at the perpetrator when I read it the first time, and the suspense is wonderful!! A terrific mystery and a splendid unveiling of Mr. Darcy's true character and his protectiveness of Elizabeth balanced with his admiration of her skillz of deduction. Yes, Lizzy has skillz.


The Indomitable Miss Elizabeth: A Pride & Prejudice Variation The Indomitable Miss Elizabeth: A Pride and Prejudice Variation by Jennifer Joy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A continuation of The Honourable Mr. Darcy, this mystery revolves around the murder of someone very close to Elizabeth, someone whom Lady Catherine threatened the day before the militia parade. Darcy must help Elizabeth through her grief and to solve the mystery before Elizabeth's life is again endangered by a murderer in Meryton.

I really enjoyed this second mystery in the series. I had read the first one before this summer, but the second volume of this series was new to me and very intriguing. When an author as talented as Jennifer Joy combines my love of mysteries with my love of all things Austen, I know I'm in for a treat!! :D


The Inseparable Mr. and Mrs. Darcy: A Pride & Prejudice Variation The Inseparable Mr. and Mrs. Darcy: A Pride and Prejudice Variation by Jennifer Joy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another mystery for Darcy and Elizabeth to solve! Now engaged, Elizabeth and Darcy soon realize that someone is trying to kill a person at Longbourn! Plus, Georgiana must be introduced to her sister-to-be, and many other mysterious hijinks occur that team up Darcy and Elizabeth once again in solving another mystery in Meryton.

A wonderful series, I read all three volumes so quickly that I'm having to press to remember details. A lovely series for mystery lovers as well as fans of Elizabeth and Darcy.


Dark Desires Dark Desires by Eve Silver
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Young Darcie has been betrayed by everyone she loved. Alone in a dangerous part of London, a gruff gentleman takes pity on her and takes her into his home. But this gentleman seems to have a strange predilection for bodies...dead bodies. Is he a resurrectionist? Or is his interest much more mundane? And is he falling for Darcie as quickly as she is for him?

A wonderful Gothic mystery--compelling characters and a very original story line. A delightfully chilling read!!


Macbeth Macbeth by William Shakespeare
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are among the most compelling characters Shakespeare ever wrote. She seems heartless in her ambition; he seems almost weak in comparison. Yet as the play continues, Macbeth gains power and thrives on ambition, to the point of killing Macduff's entire family...after killing his best mate Banquo and trying to kill Banquo's son, Fleance. Meanwhile, Lady Macbeth seems to wane in power, finally devolving into madness and eventual suicide.

I taught this play as a four-week high school Shakespeare class at Brave Writer, my second time doing so with the six plays I cycle through each spring. We had some of the most thought-provoking discussions I've ever enjoyed at Brave Writer about power, women's roles, masculinity, violence, ambition, etc. And of course, the role of the supernatural and fate in the actions of the play. I love discussing Shakespeare with teens; they come up with some of the most insightful and surprising observations--often that I didn't notice myself until a student pointed it out to me! I love collaborative learning!! :D

Along with Hamlet, I see Macbeth as being the best of the Shakespeare canon.

*  *  *  *  *
So I hope to post something besides book reviews next time...such as photos and thoughts about the U2 concert a couple of weeks ago, plus Michaelmas came and went with nary a whisper from me. And I've scribbled down some amazing quotations lately, too! 

Have a lovely week, everyone!! 

Reading happily with you, 



Monday, September 18, 2017

A Bundle of Book Reviews

As September evenings cool and we pull another blanket over us during the welcome chilly nights, it's hard to think back to the books I read over the spring and summer and neglected to track! But here are more books I've read--and with very short review as I tried to recall details from so many books read quite quickly.

I hope you'll enjoy my reviews and perhaps pick up a few at the library to read yourself!


The Well of Lost Plots The Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thursday attempts to hide out, awaiting the birth of her baby, while her husband, Landen, remains eradicated by Goliath Corporation since Thursday refused to release one of their bad guys from "The Raven." She finds herself in the Well of Lost Plots, mostly hiding out but also trying to prevent the spread of "UltraWord," a new way of reading books that will basically ruin fiction for all time.

Because of memory-stealer Aornis Hades, sister to Acheron Hades who tried to mastermind the ruin of Jane Eyre, Thursday slowly loses her memories of Landen, but Granny Next, who comes to her hide out in the unpublished book Caversham Heights, tries to help her to remember him.

Another fun Thursday Next adventure, filled with literary inside jokes and much snarkiness.


Something RottenSomething Rotten by Jasper Fforde
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thursday now must deal with Hamlet and other literary characters as she leaves Jurisfiction with two-year-old son Friday and enters the alternative world of Swindon that we come to know in her first adventure, The Eyre Affair. Finally, her husband Landen is returned to her and their son while Thursday fights to stop Yorick Kaine and his Danish-hating compatriots at Goliath from bringing the world to an end. It's another rollicking adventure with snarky and fearless Thursday Next.


To Kill a Mockingbird To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I re-read this book with our youngest for American Lit this spring, and then we watched the film afterward. It's such a brilliant novel--highlighting race relations in the Deep South as a black man is falsely accused of raping a white girl. Eight-year-old Scout's father, Atticus Finch, must defend Tom Robinson from the lies of the Ewell family, despite the fact that everyone in town knows that the Ewell girl is lying. The courtroom drama, the night when young Scout inadvertently shames the white lynch mob into going home, and Boo Radley's protection of Scout and her older brother Jem when they are attacked by Bob Ewell are all memorable scenes from the book as well as the famous film. Definitely an American classic, and perhaps the best American novel ever written.


Mr Bennet's Dutiful Daughter Mr Bennet's Dutiful Daughter by Joana Starnes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At Hunsford, Elizabeth is alerted of her father's attack of apoplexy, and Darcy confesses his love and proposes to her in order to protect her from Mr. Collins' vulture-like descent upon Longbourn just before he and the Colonel escort her back to Herefordshire. Before the end of their journey, Elizabeth accepts Mr. Darcy's proposal for the sake of her family. And thus, with her father nearly comatose, Elizabeth and Darcy's love for one another grows.

It's a very sweet story--with a huge "hitch" about 2/3 through it, and it does leave us on the edge of our seats, wondering if their marriage will endure what Darcy views as his bride's betrayal.


A Matter of Chance A Matter of Chance by L.L. Diamond
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Set in the Southern US, this modern Pride and Prejudice story has Lizzy Gardner as a single mom who escaped an abusive marriage, and William Darcy does not make the best of impressions on her. A very interesting modern twist on the Jane Austen novel that also features Jane and Bingley as major characters while Lizzy's family rejects her for leaving from her charming and abusive ex-husband.



A Fair Prospect: Volume I, II & III A Fair Prospect: Volume I, II and III by Cassandra Grafton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A three-volume set of Pride and Prejudice variations in which Darcy, after his disastrous proposal and Elizabeth's rejection, is thrown into her path by Bingley's pursuit of Jane Bennet in London. But a childhood friend of Elizabeth's now seems to be pursuing her, a gentlemen of wealth and good looks, so Darcy has competition this time around.


Earning Darcy's Trust: A Pride & Prejudice Variation Earning Darcy's Trust: A Pride and Prejudice Variation by Jennifer Joy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another wonderful and thought-provoking variation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice in which Darcy learns to trust and to depend on others, including Elizabeth, in order to protect his family against the wiles of Wickham and Caroline Bingley. A terrific plot with a theme that should make us all consider trusting others rather than trying to handle our problems all alone.


I hope that you'll enjoy reading these reviews (and, I hope, some of the books as well!).

Warmly,

Sunday, September 10, 2017

A Writing Workshop Anniversary



This Tuesday marks ten years of the monthly writers' workshop which meets at our local county library, the social hub of our mountain village. We started meeting on the second Tuesday of the month in September 2007, and within a couple of years, I started a website/blog for our group: MECAC Writer's Workshop. The "MECAC" stands for Mountain Empire Creative Arts Council which was started by Judith Dupree and myself back in 2006 and which soon included the writer's workshop meetings. Due to health issues and changes in our lives, MECAC is now concentrated almost solely on the writer's workshop. And that's fine.

Our group has hosted Dr. Dean Nelson, founder of the journalism department at Point Loma Nazarene University (PLNU), several times for Saturday workshops. We've also hosted poetry readings, readings by local and not-so-local writers, and even Write-Ins as part of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).We've also often attended the annual Writer's Symposium by the Sea at PLNU as a group.

2017 Writer's Symposium by the Sea line-up of speakers

But most of all, we've shared our writing with each other. We bring the next poem, the next chapter, the next editorial, the next blog post, the next reflective essay, and we distribute copies and then read our work aloud, receiving encouragement and constructive feedback. Occasionally we tackle a writing prompt together, sharing the results and commenting on the good and the "needs help" areas.

And often we celebrate publication by the members of our group, whether a poem or an editorial is published in the Valley Views or the Alpine Sun (our town's monthly publication of news & events, or the newspaper of the next-largest town on the way "down the hill" into San Diego, respectively), or an article or poem printed in a periodical, or a book self-published on Amazon, or a book published by a publishing company. It's all happened within our group over the last ten years.

Our group is ever-changing, but usually we end up with six to eight writers showing up on the second Tuesday of the month. I think our record is thirteen writers. Some of our group are published authors, and some are just now trying out their writing wings, and all are welcome. I've been with the group the longest, so by default I've become the leader, with Judith, a poet who most recently published Sky Mesa Journal with Wipf and Stock Publishers, starting to come a year or two after the group began. Teresa, a poet from Campo, has been coming for at least seven or eight years, and Dianne, who started writing memoirs and has recently embarked on a mystery novel, has been attending for at least six years. Others are a bit newer, including Elaine who moved to our mountain communities from the East Coast, and Linda who lives atop Mount Laguna and has published a series of time-travel romances. And the oral tradition remains strong with Elwood and his wife Pearl who drive up the mountain from Alpine. Mary, a new writer, also comes up from Alpine. Teresa and Mary often have their therapy dogs with them, and Lancelot and Pup Pup curl up at our feet, content to listen to stories, too.

At a Write-In at the Pine Valley Library, November 2015. From left to right: Mary, Sermsee, Linda, Judith, Dianne 

Over a year ago we lost a dear member, Betty from Mount Laguna who wrote songs and memoirs, to cancer. But we keep an eye on her rocking chair, knowing that she's ever with us in spirit. And longtime member Maureen moved from Descanso to Oklahoma after the publication of her first book, but the "gang's all here" when she can attend our meetings when she visits San Diego once or twice a year. Others come and go, but these writerly souls are the beating heart of the monthly Writer's Workshop.

I've shared poems and parts of my fan fiction novels and stories with this beloved group, but lately I usually come empty-handed, with too much grading and teaching on my plate to give me time to write regularly, if at all. Even writing in my journal is a rare opportunity. I don't want to lose the joy of writing, the freedom that comes when nib scrolls its path across the page, when words pop into mind and are committed to paper. Writing is a joyous thing, a cleansing thing, a hallowed and holy thing. 

And everyone can do it, from telling a story aloud to publishing a book and everything in between. It's a joy that I pray we can--and I pray we will--expend our hearts and time in accomplishing.



One of my writing students at our homeschool co-op Class Days wrote something in an essay that I immediately jotted into my quotation journal  (I've collected hundreds of quotations on writing in my journals and via Pinterest). Deceptively simple, this seemingly simple sentence says it all. Lydia wrote:

"Words convey far more weight than we often acknowledge." 

And while I added one of my favorite Poe quotes on writing to my Quotation of the Week in the sidebar of this blog, these words spoken by Robert De Niro at the 2014 Academy Awards give us the flip side of writing:

"The mind of a writer can be a truly terrifying thing. Isolated, neurotic, caffeine-addled, crippled by procrastination, and consumed by feelings of panic, self-loathing, and soul-crushing inadequacy. And that's on a good day." 

And Anne Lamott, my favorite writer who writes about writing, wrote:

"If you can't find an hour to write, even Jesus can't help you."       

So when our little group of writers gather on Tuesday evening, I'll share the joy of this tenth anniversary of the Writer's Workshop, and together we'll freewrite to a prompt, listen to each other read our work aloud, offer our two cents' worth of feedback, and, most of all, we'll celebrate the joy of writing!

Writing with you,

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Reviews of Classics, Historical, and Modern Fiction

As the heat up here in the mountains finally begins to wane for a few days, here are some more reviews, starting with a classic that B and I read together as part of his American Lit last spring, along with a few other historical and modern fiction novels. Let me know what you think if you've read some of these...or would like to!


A Separate Peace A Separate Peace by John Knowles
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Somehow I had missed reading this book in high school, but our youngest and I read it together the spring as part of his American Literature program for his junior year. It was better than I thought it would be. The microcosm of an all-boys school during the Second World War is intriguing, especially since these boys knew that they would soon be soldiers themselves. This book is about loyalty and friendship more than anything else, and it's definitely an intriguing book, one that leaves a sour taste in one's mouth (along with most 20th century American "classics").


Mr. Darcy's Bargain: A Pride and Prejudice Vagary Mr. Darcy's Bargain: A Pride and Prejudice Vagary by Regina Jeffers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A variation of Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Darcy's Bargain starts with Elizabeth and Mr. Gardiner on Darcy's London doorstep about ten months after her rejection at Hunsford. They request his help in trapping George Wickham who has apparently tricked Mr. Bennet and the good people of Meryton with a "get-rich-quick" investment scheme. The stress upon suspecting that Wickham is not on the "up-and-up" has caused Mr. Bennet to have a heart attack.

Darcy agrees to assist with entrapping Wickham . . .in exchange for Elizabeth's acquiescence to a renewal of his proposal. With her father ill and the citizens of Meryton, including her own family, facing ruin, Elizabeth agrees to Darcy's bargain.

But the scheme is far more detailed and deep than anyone suspected. Will Darcy find solid evidence of Wickham's trickery, and if he does not, will Elizabeth uphold her part of the bargain?

A complex and highly entertaining Austen variation. Regina Jeffers never fails to please!


Snowbound at Hartfield: A Sweet Tea Novella; Pride and Prejudice sequel Snowbound at Hartfield: A Sweet Tea Novella; Pride and Prejudice sequel by Maria Grace
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A very interesting mash-up of Austen characters end up at Hartfield (the Woodhouse home in Emma) during a snowstorm, including Darcy, Mrs. Elizabeth Darcy, Mr. Bennet, and Colonel Fitzwilliam of Pride and Prejudice fame, plus Sir William Elliot and Miss Elizabeth Elliot of Austen's Persuasion. Mr. Knightley invites them to stay through the storm at the home of his wife (Mrs. Emma Knightley) and her father, and other characters from Emma wander in and out at will.

But romance is brewing while the snow continues to fall. This impromptu house party definitely has some surprises in store for the neighbors of Hartfield as well as the guests who remain, warm and cozy, by the fire as the storm blusters and blows, both outside and inside as well.

I had the pleasure of proofreading this novel for author Maria Grace, and it's extremely interesting to see beloved characters from several Austen novels trapped together in a single dwelling for an extended time, especially as an unlikely pairing begin a romance.... ;)


The Eyre Affair The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It was fun to go back to this series and re-read it. The literary inside jokes and plain FUN--plus the unfolding of the mysteries Thursday Next experiences as a Literatec--make for such an enjoyable read!! From the WillSpeak machines on various corners in Thursday's hometown of Swindon to gatherings to act out Richard III in the same manner as we used to dress up to portray the various characters at midnight showings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Fforde shows us an alternate universe in which books rules the day...and the Goliath Corporation owns everything else. Thursday gets involved in trying to save Jane Eyre when the original draft of the novel is stolen by a madman who holds its characters hostage. This first book in the Thursday Next series is even more wonderful the second time through...or is it the third time??


Lost in a Good Book Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There is nothing quite like being introduced to Jurisfiction (the policing force within fiction) by Miss Havisham and being trained to deal with everything from Goliath Corporation to the eradication of one's own husband (while being pregnant with his child). But Thursday Next always seems to solve the mystery, and she does so again...even in the Well of Lost Plots where books are written. Things get particularly hairy when a fictional character runs for Prime Minister, and everything in Jurisfiction, as well as in the real world (the Outland, as fiction calls it) goes catawampus.

This is the second of the Thursday Next series by author Jasper Fforde, and although not quite as humorous as the first in the series, The Eyre Affair, there are enough literary puns and allusions to amuse along with an exciting plot and, of course, Pickwick, Thursday's loyal dodo.


Rain and Retribution Rain and Retribution by L.L. Diamond
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Elizabeth flees a forced marriage to Mr. Collins with the assistance of the Hills, trying to get to London to the Gardiners'. But in the pouring rain, her conveyance breaks down, and Mr. Darcy comes to the rescue. When they stop at an inn, Elizabeth becomes ill from exposure to the weather and thus is compromised, and Mr. Darcy offers marriage...which Elizabeth accepts after learning more about him. Once the several days of rain abate and Elizabeth is able to travel, they marry quickly at Darcy House...and then the romancing begins as Elizabeth must face that she has married a good man, one whom she doesn't understand in the least....

* * * * *

As we continue with our last year of home education and as I teach two concurrent Brave Writer online courses (Groovy Grammar and the Shakespeare Family Workshop), a few minutes spent reading can renew the mind and lift the spirits. 

Happy reading!





Saturday, August 26, 2017

Additional Book Reviews

Here are another half-dozen reviews of books read this spring and summer, not necessarily in the order in which I read them. I hope that you'll enjoy my thoughts on these intriguing books which vary from "cozy" mysteries to children's literature to, of course, Austen variations. Enjoy!


Mum's the Word Mum's the Word by Kate Collins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A cute "cozy" mystery about Abby Knight who had studied to be a lawyer before quitting to start her own flower shop. Then a mysterious death occurs nearby, and she must stick her nose in and find out what happens. It doesn't hurt that the new owner of the bar just down the street is a handsome ex-cop who helps her with her sleuthing. A fun series--extremely light (a little too light for me), but fun to read in the spa at night.


Slay It with Flowers Slay It with Flowers by Kate Collins
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

The second in the Flower Shop series, Abby is asked by her air-headed cousin to do the flowers for her wedding. But one of the groomsmen is killed...apparently by someone in the wedding party. Abby again has the help of the handsome bar owner/ex-cop down the street to help her to suss out the killer...before the killer gets to Abby first!

A cute series, but a bit too light. I won't be continuing to read it....



Rainbow Valley Rainbow Valley by L.M. Montgomery
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Although I have read this series many times, I never tire of Lucy Maud Montgomery's lush and memorable prose and her scintillating characters who burst off the page and into our hearts.

Rainbow Valley is not among my top "faves" of this series, but it's still a beloved book in an even more beloved series that I missed during my childhood read-a-thons and discovered in my mid-twenties.

A definite "keeper" and an integral part of this incredibly-written series that should be a part of every childhood.


Rilla of Ingleside Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Perhaps my favorite book in the Anne of Green Gables series, it is from Rilla of Ingleside that I have gleaned the clearest understanding of the Great War, World War I.

This beloved book illustrates the power of love, family, sacrifice, sorrow, duty, and even a splash or two of romance through the eyes of a rather vain and self-absorbed girl of fifteen who grows up on the home front of Prince Edward Island, Canada, during the years of the First World War.

Beautifully and poignantly written, I consider this book the best of the entire Anne of Green Gables series despite its rarity of humor. This book is just... more in every way: deeper, more beautiful, darker yet lighter, patriotic, yearning for right to prevail.

It's difficult to put into words the sheer power of Montgomery's writing in this book. The battles far away in France are seen through newspaper articles and news spread via word of mouth a full century ago. The poignancy of a girlhood in wartime with her brothers, childhood friends, and even the young man she loves, on the front is beyond my powers of description. It's a beautiful and horrible book at the same time, yet beauty prevails despite heart-rending loss.

If you have not read the entire Anne of Green Gables series, I beg you to do so. And as of 2009, a ninth book has joined the series, a book which I am reading now and is well-worth the wait.


Mistaking Her Character: A Pride and Prejudice Variation Mistaking Her Character: A Pride and Prejudice Variation by Maria Grace
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I first read this book on FanFiction.net, and the author later sent me the published version of her series "The Queen of Rosings Park" of which Mistaking Her Character is the first.

I have read hundreds--and I'm serious, probably upwards of 400--variations of Austen's novels, and this particular variation of Pride and Prejudice is easily in my Top Five favorites.

In this variation, Mr. Bennet is "Dr. Bennet," employed as physician to Anne DeBourgh at Rosings Park. Jane and Elizabeth are daughters of his first marriage; Mary, Kitty, and Lydia are from his second marriage to the Mrs. Bennet we know and...well, are amused by. But this Mrs. Bennet has a bit more of a mean streak, especially toward Elizabeth who assists her father in his treatment of the very ill Miss DeBourgh.

Elizabeth did herself no favors when she turned down Mr. Collins' proposal, thus ensuring Charlotte's position as Mrs. Collins. And Mr. Collins kindly recommended his cousin, Dr. Bennet, when Lady Catherine desired to have a full-time physician live in one of the cottages at Rosings Park and kindly allowed his family to reside there as well.

I'll leave the background there to avoid any spoilers, but this variation appealed to me very much with Elizabeth's dedication to her father, who does not treat her well, her glib manner of turning aside Lady Catherine's frequent lectures with her quick tongue, and her and Darcy's immediate attraction. I'm currently proofreading the third book in this series, and they are all wonderful!!


Waking to Mr. Darcy: A Pride and Prejudice Novella Waking to Mr. Darcy: A Pride and Prejudice Novella by Leenie Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A novella, Waking to Mr. Darcy brings us an injured Elizabeth Bennet who was out walking in a storm and, in her confused state, she happens upon the small hunting cabin on the Netherfield estate where Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy are escaping from the Bingley sisters and preparing to go out hunting. Given Elizabeth's injuries, Mr. Darcy elects to care for her, thus compromising her as he must remove her sodden clothing and treat her rather serious injuries. Their regard for each other grows during the night he tends her, thus preparing the way for a happy future.

A sweet novella, this quick read is a lovely way to spend a rainy afternoon!


Rainy Days - An Alternative Journey from Pride and Prejudice to Passion and Love Rainy Days - An Alternative Journey from Pride and Prejudice to Passion and Love by Lory Lilian
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another lovely Austen variation by Lory Lilian--I have thoroughly enjoyed all of her "alternative journeys" through the events of Pride and Prejudice.

A few days before the Netherfield Ball, Elizabeth, hoping to escape the unwanted attentions of Mr. Collins, takes a long walk. An unexpected rainstorm causes her to seek shelter in a modest fishing cabin built and used by Mr. Bennet and Mr. Gardiner. On her way there, a galloping horse and its rider are heading directly for a dangerous stream, and Elizabeth yells to stop him. The horse unseats its rider and runs off, leaving an angry Mr. Darcy behind. They seek the cabin together, and during this time, Mr. Darcy reveals his admiration for Miss Elizabeth while she learns far more about Mr. Darcy--the man behind the hauteur.

After the rain stops, they are able to return to Longbourn with an excuse of finding each other on the trail on the way home, with only Mr. Bennet (to whom Mr. Darcy confesses) knowing the truth of their unchaperoned hours in the cabin. Mr. Bennet is satisfied with Darcy's promise to marry Elizabeth should the story get out. And from thence goes our story of Elizabeth and Darcy's romance....

A wonderful and memorable variation of Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Rainy Days is the third Pride and Prejudice variation by Lory Lilian that I've read this month (March 2017). I don't think that I can pick a favorite, but all three are excellent, and I heartily recommend all three.

*****

I hope that you have enjoyed my thoughts on these very different books! I'll be posting more reviews next weekend as well. 

Reading with you,



Saturday, August 19, 2017

Recent Book Reviews...

I have had such a busy, harried spring and summer that only this week did I transfer my book reading list to Goodreads; I still need to add them to this blog (see sidebar...well, after I update it, perhaps...). Anyway, I'll try to post a few of my thoughts (which are not nearly as extensive since I'm trying to remember books that I read months ago) about each book. Fortunately, my list this year is more varied than the past few years; while I still have a good number of Austen variations listed, I've been reading other books, too. Yay!! So here are a few of the books I've read in 2017:


The Blythes Are Quoted The Blythes Are Quoted by L.M. Montgomery
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A very different book than the first eight Anne of Green Gables, these stories are told by the Blythes and revolve around different people in Glen St. Mary and environs, only touching now and then on the Blythe family. Interspersed among the stories are poems supposedly written by Anne, and a few written by Walter. Some stories are ghost stories, most are human-interest. It was a very entertaining short story collection which was supposedly sent off to L.M. Montgomery's publishers the day she died. While some of the stories have been republished over the years, this collection is the first time that the book has been published in its entirety, and it's definitely worth a read, especially for those who loved the Blythe family from Books 5-8 of the Anne of Green Gables series.


Longbourn: Dragon Entail: A Pride and Prejudice Variation Longbourn: Dragon Entail: A Pride and Prejudice Variation by Maria Grace
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This may be my favorite Pride and Prejudice variation series...and I was fortunate enough to be allowed to proofread it!! In this second book, Darcy and the baby dragon Pemberley have removed to Rosings Park where Rosings, an ancient firedrake dragon, has taken on the training of the baby. Lady Catherine continues to insist that Darcy marry Anne who is Junior Keeper to Rosings, despite the fact that Anne knows nothing about dragon care. Pemberley pines for Elizabeth's presence since Elizabeth possesses an uncommon affinity for dragons and tends to enjoy their presence more than she does most humans.

Elizabeth, meanwhile, remains at Longbourn Keep where the dragon of the same name, a grouchy wyvern, insists that she marry Mr. Collins, the dragon-deaf heir to Longbourn. Collins is horrid, hates all mentioning of dragons, and abuses the minor dragons (which he sees as birds, cats, and other creatures) of Longbourn Keep. Finally, Mr. Collins and Longbourn the dragon push Elizabeth past her endurance, and she escapes to London, accompanied by Wickham who is abnormally curious about all things dragonish. Elizabeth's Dragon Friend, April, a fairy dragon of unusual perception, warns Elizabeth of revealing too much to Wickham.

Darcy and Elizabeth run into each other at the Blue Order buildings in London, and Darcy requests Elizabeth's assistance in nursing the pining Pemberley back to health. He accompanies her to Rosings Park where the dragons all fall in love with her, as they usually do, for Elizabeth truly understands dragons...much better than she does Mr. Darcy who also seems to be respected by the wise dragons of Rosings. And then everything begins to unravel, with Pemberley's imprinting called into question, leaving her young life hanging in the balance at the dragon Conclave...which will also decide Elizabeth's future with Mr. Collins.

This is a delightful story mixing the secret world of dragons and Jane Austen's Regency world beautifully while continuing to develop the various characters of Pride and Prejudice. I've read this book no fewer than five times; I just can't get enough of it!

And the good news is that the third book in the series, Netherfield: Rogue Dragon should be written and released by the end of the year or early 2018; I'm so thrilled and hope to proofread it as well. :)



Conceit & Concealment: A Pride & Prejudice Variation Conceit and Concealment: A Pride and Prejudice Variation by Abigail Reynolds
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was the first book that I've proofread for Abigail Reynolds...and it may be my favorite of all of her books. In fact, Abigail's books were the very first Austen variations I ever read, and she became one of my favorite authors in this genre. So it was a privilege to be able to assist with the proofreading of this novel.

In an alternate timeline, France defeats Britain in the Napoleonic Wars, and France now occupies all of England. Elizabeth and her family must deal as well as possible with the French forces who think nothing of conquering the local gentlewomen as much as those who oppose them. Elizabeth befriends Mr. Darcy in the fields around Longbourn before she discovers that he seems to have made a deal with the French which allows him to come and go as he pleases and gives him also some power in the occupying army forces. Elizabeth, a patriot, despises Darcy...until he uncovers a secret to Elizabeth that could expel the French forces from the shores of England forever.

When Darcy is captured and accused of murder, Elizabeth must pick up the mantle of Darcy's secret and do everything she can to protect Darcy's precious charge and get her safely into the hands of the resistance forces. Elizabeth then becomes part of the resistance in London, working to defeat the French and force them to leave Britain behind.

This is such an amazing adventure!! I finally had to just read it for pure enjoyment first; then, I went back and prooofread for errors once I knew what happened. ;) It's a beautiful romance, a patriotic tale, and a spy novel all in one...as well as being a variation of Austen's beloved Pride and Prejudice. I don't give many "5" scores to books that are not classics, but this variation of P and P is so extraordinary that it well-deserves this "perfect score." Brava, Abigail!!



Darcy's Hope: Beauty from Ashes: A WWI Pride & Prejudice Variation Darcy's Hope: Beauty from Ashes: A WWI Pride and Prejudice Variation by Ginger Monette
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book and the second book in this series are among the best Austen fan fiction novels I have read. Ever. Set against the backdrop of the Great War, Elizabeth and Darcy hate each other and then love each other, just as in the original Pride and Prejudice. And of course, there's Wickham to gum up the works, and Jane and Bingley are seen along the periphery as well. There is all the intrigue of being stationed at a hospital near the front in Belgium, with Elizabeth as a nurse and Darcy as the CO of the army hospital, plus spies afoot as well. An exciting, edge-of-your-seat story that continues neatly into a second book before being tied up neatly. I'm thinking that it's time for a second reading, actually.... ;)



Darcy's Hope at Donwell Abbey: A WWI Pride and Prejudice Variation by Ginger Monette
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Darcy and Elizabeth are finally in love, and he sends her to Pemberly while he takes on a dangerous assignment. But Wickham has messed things up, and Elizabeth is accused of crimes that cause her to go underground, hiding from Darcy himself so that her "shame" will not affect his career. The Great War fights on, and Darcy is severely injured and eventually improves enough to be sent to Donwell Abbey where he is nursed back to health. To say more will give it away, but it's a wonderful continuation of Monette's first Great War Romance. Together, these two books are among the very best of Pride and Prejudice variations.



Books of a Feather Books of a Feather by Kate Carlisle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I very much enjoyed this tenth book in the Bibliophile Mystery series by Kate Carlisle. Brooklyn is a bookbinder who somehow happens upon dead bodies, and with the help of her now-fiance, Derek, (former British agent), she helps solve mysteries.

This latest installment involves the Audobon Book of Birds, a copy of which I have seen myself at the Huntington Library in the Los Angeles area. Brooklyn's eclectic upbringing with her hippy-dippy but lovable parents in the Bay area contrasts with Derek's upper-crust British childhood, but he has come to love Brooklyn's family, most of whom still live in or near the commune run by Guru Bob...and also happens to be where Brooklyn was first taught bookbinding and restoration.

As a booklover myself, I adore all of the details of the restoration of various books that occur as part of the mystery series, plus Brooklyn is snarky and fun yet always sees the best in people. This is my favorite "cozy mystery" series; it's warm and funny and very, very smart without being pretentious.

*****

I'll post a few more books with reviews next week as I try to keep up with at least weekly blogging!

Have a lovely week!!

Reading with you,



Saturday, August 12, 2017

Fall Classes at Brave Writer


This school year marks 15 years of teaching and working at Brave Writer. Julie Sweeney Bogart started Brave Writer in January 2000, and I joined the Brave Writer team (of four other employees) in 2002.

Over the past few years, I've settled into a great schedule at Brave Writer; I'm teaching 48 weeks a year now, with some overlap of classes. I love teaching kids and families, mostly homeschoolers, via these online classes. I've written most of the materials I teach; the only class I teach that I haven't written is Groovy Grammar; the rest I've either overhauled and largely rewritten or have written from scratch.

So here are the classes, with dates and links, that I'll be teaching this fall at Brave Writer:

The Groovy Grammar Workshop: August 28-September 22 (4 weeks). This family workshop turns grammar on its head! Rather than relying on boring workbooks and grammar rules that no one can keep straight, we explore how words work together to create clarity and meaning. We "collect" words, play games with them, make up words by creating a "fictionary," and then explore how words work together in Lewis Carroll's poem "Jabberwocky." We conclude the class with writing our own Jabberwocky-style poem using nonsense words. Much family fun is in store in Groovy Grammar!!

The Shakespeare Family Workshop: August 28-September 29 (5 weeks). In this family workshop, we explore Shakespeare's life through a scavenger hunt, draw or create models of the Globe Theatre, and examine the language of Shakespeare's time. Then we'll have an informal study of Shakespeare's sonnets before we explore Shakespeare's plays, spending a week each on comedies (focusing on Much Ado About Nothing), histories (focusing on Richard III), and tragedies (focusing on Hamlet). So if you want a fun and extensive exploration of Shakespeare and his works, this family workshop is ideal!

The MLA Research Essay: September 25-November 3 (6 weeks). This class is intended for high school juniors and seniors only, with a small class size of only ten students to provide maximum teacher-student interaction. Using the college textbook The MLA Handbook, 8th Edition (2016), students will research and write a 5-7 page college-level persuasive research essay using the most recent format of the Modern Language Association (MLA). Students do not need to purchase the textbook; all posts will include materials from the text, and students may contact the teacher with additional questions. Students will finish this course with a college-level essay and much knowledge of how to do academic research.

Playing with Poetry Workshop: November 6-December 12 (5 weeks). This family workshop class focuses on writing many kinds of poetry: free verse, visual poetry, Japanese poetry, traditional rhymed verse, and alternative poetry forms. We'll also explore reading and analyzing poetry, and there are several fun optional activities such as song lyrics as poetry. This workshop is a wonderful way to introduce families to the fun and games of writing poetry, providing a solid foundation in poetry analysis and the history of poetic form. So much fun!!!

I'll be teaching the same courses in the spring in a slightly different order, with the addition of a high school literary analysis course on Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice. More on that class in December when I post the spring schedule!!

Fall registration began on Monday, July 31, so please enroll as soon as possible since all of our classes were full for the entire 2016-2017 school year!! Be inspired!! Write bravely!!


Writing with you,


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