Thursday, September 1, 2016


This is a very short but nevertheless intense story I wrote some years ago (I think my junior year of high school) for a contest. It's not as fully realized nor developed as some of my other short stories due to the word limit I was given. Nevertheless, it represented a huge experimental turn in my style. I hate first person present-tense, and yet here it is in a very colloquial (and male) voice. Enjoy! *SPOILER* This is not a happy story.


Listen. This is the story of Bobby MacFarlane, the Walker.
            “That’s a sight if I ever saw one,” Darby says, her horse jolting her syllables. “Makes me feel alive. Like I’m gonna live, love and fly.”
            She tries to pass me. Always does. I pull my sweat-brimmed hat over my eyes and nudge Shot to tear dust up faster. Darby puffs air through her lips, little bit of female sass she’s got left, but doesn’t try it again.
            A grin plays with the corners of my sand-salted mouth as up-down-up-down I go on Shot’s back, looking up at dying sky she mentioned past my hat.
            I like it when my hat cuts off half my view with leather silhouette. Makes me feel more mysterious. I like it when Darby fails trying to pass me. Makes me feel a little more like the boss I’m supposed to be on this dadgum trek to the City.
            “Y’all talkin’ ‘bout the sunset?” asks Daniel. He don’t care who’s in front. He knows he’s got the most baggage anyway.
            “Yeah, brother,” crows Darby. “Dust catches in the pink. Sparkles like pixies.”
            “Ain’t gonna be no more pixies or sunsets if y’all don’t shut up and ride,” I mutter.
            Don’t know why I feel cross. Maybe it’s got something to do with Daniel’s extra baggage. He shouldn’t have it. It was Marty’s and Doris’ until the sand dragon happened.
            All my hours, my mind taunts me with a hazy image of Marty’s mare wandering away crying ‘cuz we couldn’t take her with us. It makes my heart squeeze sick feelings into my stomach. No doubt that mare’ll return to Homestead and shatter the world of Marty’s parents and little sisters. If the Living Sand don’t get her first.
            I hope to heaven it don’t.
            “You’re a sourpuss leader, Bobby MacFarlane,” says Darby, sort of whining.
            I don’t argue. First, she’s right. Second, don’t want Darby breaking down. Doris is her sister.
            Was, not is.
            Past tense is sometimes the hardest thing to say.
            “Good leaders don’t crack jokes all the time,” I say.   But I know what she means.
            Mama always says, “Bobby, you gotta pretty smile when you crack one. Stop pretendin’ to be like all them dead heroes you always readin’ about. Wrong kinda attitude.”
            Except my “wrong kinda attitude” got me this job. Leader, Emergency Youth Messanger Squad of Homestead. People call us Emmies. I wanted the position, still kinda do, minus the fact Doris and Marty are dead. Marty’s mama’s probably gonna kill me if we ever get back.
            Homestead’s ain’t the only town sending out Emmies. I know that ‘cuz ways back we found a dead horse with the Emmie brand on its sun-leathered side. Sand dragon probably got that Emmie.
            That same day the dragon came. Marty unloaded all his lead in panic when its shadow flitted over us. Doris’ horse threw her and the dragon swooped down. Marty tried to save Doris.
            Danged fool brave thing to do. Dragon got ‘em both. Now Marty’s horse is wanderin’ the desert, somewhere between Homestead and Death.
            When you’re kids, them banjo-pickin’ story-telling bards come from where they come from say Death is some tragic end to failed means, something romantic to take for your lady.
            Death ain’t like that. Marty tried that heroic thing. Didn’t help anyone.
            Death is Living Sand.
            It’s sweltering, bending vision from a distance, pale gold, beautiful, horrid. Eats everything, leaves more sand. Swallowed up all of Ladybird Town. Left Homestead alone stranded.
            Only way we know is ‘cuz some bard come up from Ladybird Town. Said she’s got some sorta immunity to Sand and knows if someone else does too. I remember standing in the square with Marty, Daniel, my girl Kate, staring past sun glare and the brim of my hat at that woman, her glass of sand in her fist.
            “Ah know whose safe, and Ah know who ain’t,” she shrilled, hot air thinning what voice she got left. “The Sand is coming. Y’all gonna die, y’hear?”
            Die, die, Y’HEAR? chorused the silence. Then she’d pointed right at me, Daniel and Marty.
            My life officially changed.
            I try to whistle an old song ‘bout some guy leavin’ his girl behind to find his fortune, but my throat’s choked. Whistle withers on my dry lips. I wanna marry Kate. Never told her that. Now I’m an Emmie, got what I want, but didn’t.
            Don’t wish on a star. Might lose what you’ve already got.
            “Hey Darbs,” I say weakly. “Water?”
            “You watchin’ the horizon, Bobby?” Darby whispered. I realized how silent she’d been.
            I look up, well aware what I’m about to see. Yup, air’s bending. Crooked stripes of sunset and hot. I run a hand over my face’s attempt at stubble and let a breath settle in my heavy bones as I pull up Shot. Grim’s a good word to describe that feeling. Shot shifts nervously under my legs, ears flicking.
            “Living Sand’s probs right over that hill,” Darby breathes.
            “Are we trapped, Bobby?” Daniel asks.
            Darby shoots him a look, like he’s being too loud.
            I don’t answer. Maybe I’m just dramatic. Don’t care. I spur Shot towards the brushy hill, heat smacking my cheeks. Shot’s every step is reluctantly thick. I can hear Darby and Daniel following.
            Hill evens out, and I stare Death in the face. Miles around of pale gold sand, no end in sight.
            DEATH, screams the heat.
            Something hateful makes me smile. Makes me feel alive.
            “Hey Death,” I say.
            Daniel whistles fearfully behind me.  
            According to that old witchy woman, the Living Sand won’t swallow us three up. That’s why we’re Emmies, heading north to the City. But the horses don’t got no immunity gift, and whole lotta good immunity’s gonna do us if we ain’t got water or food out in a lifeless desert. Lifeless minus the…
            “Sand Dragon!” shrieks Darby.
            Duh. Dumb girl.
            Shadow swoops from behind us. Shot panics and rears. My hat drops off as I cling on, breath yanked out my throat as my eyes are flooded with light.
            Daniel shoots like a moron. Shoulda learned by now guns don’t work on the beasts and freak horses out. Shot tries to throw me. My teeth crack on his neck, stars, pain, world whirling.
            “Daniel, you idiot!” I scream as I slide off Shot’s back, hands slipping off his neck. No.
            If I fall, I’m trampled.
            The shadow darkens, concentrates. Wings rush hair off my forehead as I hit earth and roll away from Shot’s kicking hooves, pain stomping jigs down my arm, nails dragging backwards in my lungs.
            Daniel’s emptying his gun, Darby’s crying. Her horse threw her, too. I flip to my back just in time to gawk at sandy scales and scream as claws scrape me off the ground, leaving my stomach somewhere down.
            It’s all I know what to say. You wanna know how I felt right then, there it is, capsulated in that wordless piece of human fear.
            Think I blacked out, because I remember waking up.


            “He’s an Emmie, put him down as Homestead.”
            “Emergency-Youth-Messanger-Squad of Enter-Name-In-the-Blank, this case Homestead. Fancy name for cattle kids they send to the City hopin’ to stop the Sand. In fact they’re probs all Emmies.”
            When my brains registered the dude’s words and that I was alive between sheets in the dark, I opened my eyes. I was lookin’ at two shadows. One turns towards me. Waves.
            “You hear me?”
            They’ll probably tell me to “lay quiet” if I do “hear me,” so I groan and let my eyes close.
            “Dazed. If he wakes up don’t tell him about Homestead.”
            I jerk upright, shedding sheets, ignoring my pounding head. “Homestead? The Sand got them?”
            Both shadow dudes slump. One reaches up and lights an oil lamp I didn’t see, revealing a guy my age and another my dad’s.
            Older Guy sets his lip, says seriously, “Weren’t supposed to hear that, son. Take it easy. I’m sorry.”
            No yes, no no.
            I know the answer.
            I fall back on the cot. Not shocked, not sad. Dazed. Ghost faces flash in my mind’s eye. Mama, Daddy, Darbs’ and Daniel’s families. Kate.
            Moments like these Love really is a four-letter word.
            “Go back to sleep, kid,” says Older Dude. Younger Dude just looks awkward.
            “All right, your name?”
            “Bobby. MacFarlane.”
            “Your friends’?”
            “Friends?” I sit up on my elbows. Sure enough across me is another cot. Daniel. Guess Darby’s in another room.
            “Daniel Jackson, Darby Pickens.”
            Suddenly their names feel like the best things I ever said in my life. They’re all I’ve got left. “What happened?”
            “You okay enough to be fed info?” asks Older Dude. “Wes, get ‘im some water.”
            Wes goes scurrying off while Older Dude sinks on my cot. Know he’s a dad by the way his weight bounces the mattress. Not ‘cuz he’s heavy, but because life is. How he spreads his knees and looks at me, the wrinkles in his skin haloed in the lantern light.
            “Sorry for freaking you out with Lyd’s dragon. We call ourselves Sand Devils. Go around rescuing folks stranded by the Living Sand with our dragons.”
            “You train Sand Dragons?”
            “Some of ‘em. Wild ones you still wanna avoid. You an Emmie, Bobby?”
             Wish I wasn’t. Wish I died. Or maybe I just wanna wish to die. Maybe got too much fight to wanna die. One thing’s for sure, though.
            Life will hurt.
            “Old witchy woman said we’re immunes.”
            Older Dude snorts. “No such thing as immunes.”
            Knew it.
            “Just don’t touch the sand, and you won’t die. Simple as that. Y’all going to the City? I can tell you for a fact they don’t know what to do any more than any of us. In fact, they’re running outta the city.”
            “No,” I say in disbelief. “So… it’s hopeless?”
            “You alive? There’s hope.”
            Not sure about that. Pretty sure I’m watching my life and hope slip through my fingers like sand.
            “Where they running to?”
            “Well,” says Older Dude, just as Wes returns and hands me a chipped glass of water. I let it cool my skin, don’t drink. Just drinking in his words. “They say there’s a hermit in the Northern Kingdom who can fix everything. They’re trying to go up there and find him. But I’m afraid most’ve ‘em get caught by the Sand before they can even reach the border.”
            “Hermit?” I furrow my brow.
            “Yeah.” Older Dude gestures to Wes on the floor, who pulls shriveled paper out of a pocket and hands it to me. It’s a sketch of a blue rock.
            “He lives in there. We’re about to send a team of Sand Devils to go find him.”
            “Send me,” I blurt, crunching paper.
            “Ever ride a dragon?”
            “Can’t be worse than a bronco.”
            Older Dude grins, splitting his grizzled face. “I’d tell you to stay here, but guess you’d just run off anyway.”
            I probably wouldn’t, but I don’t argue.
            “I’ll have you ride with Lyd,” he says.

            Moment later I’m tied on a Sand Dragon behind a dark girl. Calls herself Lyd and me “boy” though I’m not much younger. Makes me miss when I’d sit in front of Kate on Shot and make her scream by galloping.
            Around us are other riders and Dragons. The world spreads before us, mostly Sand, and behind us is all our friends, mine being Daniel and Darby. Daniel’s got one arm slinged, the other round Darby. Silly part of me wants to see them like that always.
            “Bye Bobby!” screams Darby.
            “Hey World,” says Lyd, smirking like she’s something.
            “Hey Death,” I say under my breath. 
            The Dragon’s wings swoop, smacking wind in my ears and eyes as the ground leaves us and the sky surrounds us with hot heat. I grab Lyd’s shoulders in spite of myself, grinding my teeth and squeezing my eyes shut. Air roars past. Thud-thud-thud go the Dragon wings as the shadow of the Devils’ Mountain fades behind us.
            Hours become minutes and minutes become hours till I’m not sure which is which and don’t care. At one point Lyd shakes me.
            “There’s the City,” she says. “Barely no one there now.”
            I don’t have to look down. Skeleton towers of the City brush sky full of gritty wind. The wind sounds hollow tunneled down hollow streets.
            But after we pass the city, we began to soar over snakes of road darkened with fleeing life. These roads are surrounded by weak green. Life, life, life. I swallow dryness and blink at it.
            “You alive? There’s hope,” Older Dude had said.
            Hey Death.
            I thought we’d stop for the night. Instead I end up sleeping while flying, adrenaline sickening my veins with the fear of falling. ‘Course, I don’t. Tied down. But when the sun rises again, instead of flat we’re looking at bubbled land, all scarlet and rose under new daylight.
            “What’re those?” I ask Lyd, too curious to pretend to know.
            “Big rocks.”
            Gee, thanks.
            “Gotta find the one where the hermit dude is,” she adds.
            “Blue one.”
            I notice the other Dragons are gone, that it’s just us. Lyd says it’s ‘cuz they’ve split to look around. Words are half out of her mouth when I see it, sapphire sore thumb.
            Down we swoop, blue rock growing as we get closer till it’s all we see and the Dragon thuds to earth. In front of us is a big open gate like a gaping mouth, wooden, painted teeth jagging down from its frame.
            “Weird,” says Lyd, hand drifting to her pistol.
            I yank my kerchief off my face and squint up. The air is stiller than still, that still that makes it and you feel alive.
            “Guess we go in?” I ask as she ties down her sleepy dragon.
            Lyd’s braids shrug with her shoulders. “Reckon so.”
            But then a grating voice howls out the mouth, “Come forth! You have reached the Gates of Life.”
            We share a glance and start crunching across dry earth towards them Gates of Life. Look more like Gates of Death with that mouth.
            The shadow of its innards flits over us as we duck in, find ourselves looking at hundreds of people working in lush gardens, a waterfall pouring white from a deep blue wall in the center. They all turned and shouted in one reverberating voice, “Peace, Chosen Ones!”
            Lydia’s face lights up. I just shift my weight.
            Both the waterfall and the people parted in a wave, clearing for a tall lady, gold crown on her head and a smile on her dark face. Lyd sighs and drops on her knees, something I didn’t place right with her, though the Lady was pretty impressive. Shift my weight to the other leg and tip a hat that isn’t there to her.
            She spreads her hands and says, “Welcome. You are of the 500,000.”
            Pictures not in my head suddenly are. See a community in this blue rock, of people chosen by the Hermit Lady to survive The Purge, meaning the Sand, until it passed and life returned to the Colonies. And Lyd and I are two of them.
            “Uh, what about our friends?” I ask abruptly, slicing away the silky vision. Lyd gives me an irritated look.
            Hermit Lady lets her lids drift closed, thinks a moment and inhales. The pictures come back, revolving round the Devils’ Mountain. See Darby’s face, Older Dude, Wes, bunch of other people I don’t know. Don’t see Daniel. I point this out to Hermit Lady.
            “Then he has not been chosen,” she says. “I am sorry. Come.”
            I blink and stumble after her and Lyd. All I can see is Daniel’s arm around Darby, his innocent grin. But it fades. These gardens are amazing. The waterfall sings and the people smile. The blue is beautiful. Some sort of sensation settles in my bones.
            Peace. That’s what it is, I realize.
            “Here,” says the Hermit Lady as she leads Lyd and me towards the waterfall. “You will rest.”
            Rest. I smile. Rest would be nice. As we walk on, I feel unnecessary guilt about Marty and Doris slip away. Sadness for Kate’s still there, but it’s calmer, more retrospective, I guess.          The sort that a guy writes songs about.
            We’re standing on the slippery, glistening rock in front of the waterfall, its pure water sloshing my ankles as I peer into the darkness beyond its gate, the gate that opened for the Lady. She gestures.
            “If you pass through these waters, you will be safe from the sand forever.”
            I feel its moisture kiss my face. I wanna run in and drown in it, feel free, alive forever.
            But I think of Daniel again. My jaw sets in indecision, and I glance at the mouth gate, the glaring heat beyond. All the pain of the outside pricks my heart again, fear of dragons, strangle of sand. But even as it floods over into my watering eyes, I say it. Can’t believe it, but I do.
            “Hey Lady, I appreciate it, but I’m gonna let my friend take my place.”
            For a moment utter silence drops. I turn and face her, repeat my words.
            “Are you certain?” she asks, brow frowning.
            Already my bitter sorrow for Kate is biting back. I smear dusty tears off my cheeks and nod my head. Can’t talk, it hurts that bad. But I can’t shake that picture of Daniel.
            Lady smiles, lifts my chin to her eyes, kisses my forehead.
            “Bobby MacFarlane, may you walk long,” she says. 
            I tip my invisible hat again, then pivot, march down the lighted path outside. Back into heat, back into light, back into darkness. I squint at the blazing fields.
            Don’t know how long it’ll be till the Sand gets me. Think I’ll walk the Colonies, warn the Chosen. Then what? Who knows. Least I know Daniel’s safe.

            “Hey Death,” I whisper to the Sand, and I walk out into the world without looking back.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Hey Publishing World: Christianity is Diverse, Too

I see a lot of #PubRants about diversity. That's awesome. That's really awesome. As someone who has mixed race heritage, has grown up in largely diverse neighborhoods, and who has friends of all backgrounds and stories, it's really important to me. But like any demographic, I get frustrated when I see my own stereotyped.

Except I'm not talking about race or sexuality. I'm talking about religion.

I kept track this week of how many times on Twitter I saw the words "Christian" used by people (those involved in the publishing industry to any degree). I saw it a few dozen times. Every single time it was in a harshly negative sense, combined with often with the word "white" and related to topics such as abuse, sexism, rape culture, and hatred. And I want to tear my hair out sometimes because I am a Christian, and I have never been a victim of nor a participant in abuse, sexism, rape culture, nor hatred. While some have, most have not.

A few months ago, I looked up the book Devoted. Now, before I go on, let me clarify that I only read of much of it as was available on Amazon, mostly because I am extremely broke (which is sad because I love books.) However, it made me upset rather quickly for a number of reasons. I recognize that the story set forth in Devoted is based off of real, legitimate situations and those stories break my heart. No one should have to go through such suppression.

However, from what I see all over the internet, especially Twitter (where I am an active but rather politically silent participant), the attitude towards Christians is a general one. A general one that assumes we are all like the families presented in Devoted, and not necessarily in lifestyle, but more in the way we treat each other, those we disagree with, our women, and our children. Essentially, people outside of Christianity box it in generally in the "suppressive" and "offensive" box simply based on its some of its members' political stances.

I recognize that some people have been victims of severe mistreatment, emotional abuse, and (many more) historically, death, in Christian environments and circles. These are real stories and horrors and realities and they are awful. They are disgusting. However, (and not to excuse it in the least) in all reality, this is true of every religion, and is not so much because of the religion as because of those who hold to it (again, there are exceptions in certain circles, but you simply CANNOT say a 11th century German mercenary who fought in the Crusades and murdered Jewish children for kicks is the same as your friendly elderly lady down the street that attends the local Baptist church just because they both held to the label "Christian"). We in the Twitterverse (with the exception of trolls, but don't let trolls define a demographic, either) do this with all other religions and those who hold to them, whether they follow Islam, Mormonism, Paganism, Hinduism, etc. It's about time we start being consistent and doing the same with Christianity.

Before anyone tells me I'm whining like a privileged white girl and my opinions don't matter, let me first admit that yes, I am privileged to live in a two-parent home with enough money to go to college. However, I've also had the advantage of living in multiple regions and meeting many fellow Christians from other regions and other countries (including Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Malaysia, South Africa, Ghana, Switzerland, Austria, Indonesia, China). Church history is one of my major interests, as well as theology (the study of Christian doctrine, and by that I mean ALL BRANCHES of it). As an ENTJ, part of my personality is such that in order to disagree with someone religiously or politically, I need to understand all the angles behind their reasoning and even be able to debate from their perspective regardless of whether or not I agree with it.

That said, I see the internet stereotype of the "white angry Christian" and it makes me mad. Mad. So I guess that makes me an angry white Christian, but I digress.


Because in the next ten to fifteen years, there are likely going to be more Christians in Asia and Africa than in the Western World. Christianity is NOT a white religion. In fact, in the grand scheme of Christianity's history, it is relatively recently a "white religion."

Because practicing and devoted Christians (the ones that attend church frequently) are equally concerned about their theology as opposed to their politics. We are NOT Westboro Baptist Church. Some of the words on their website are the same as on mine, but in no way are Christians WBC. The language used by Christians is incredibly complex and nuanced and diverse. We have more than two dozen different terms for two dozen different ways just on how we think the world will end. The way one Christian uses a word will be entirely different from a definition for the same word used by a Christian from a different definition.

Because we are not all the Duggars. I own three pairs of skinny jeans and have been on dates. When I turn 21, I will likely drink (in fact, in my particular denomination and its sisters, there's a subculture of beer and wine snobs).

Because some of us have lifestyles like the Duggars and suddenly every sweet Christian girl with curly hair and jean skirts was labeled as "oppressed" and her brothers and father labeled a rapist by the media when the Duggar scandal broke out. No. Just stop. I have friends who are more conservative and live a lifestyle similar to the Duggars on the outside (though often their theology and political views are very different on different levels) and they chose that lifestyle. Don't harass them for it, please.

Because I have held the hands of those who have had to flee for their lives for owning a Bible.

Because not every Christian who believes in modesty is a victim of or participant in rape culture. Modesty is a hotly debated and often abused conviction, for sure, but I personally am convicted to avoid short shorts and plunge-neck tees and spaghetti strap anything. Is this because I'm a participant in rape culture? Because I've been brainwashed? NO. It's because that is my personal conviction (and also because of my body type). I'm not about to go stuffing it in anyone's throats but if you try to tell me that I'm being oppressed because I choose to dress that way, I'll get lit pretty quickly. Fact: in my circle of friends I have a girlfriend who wears only skirts, and also another friend with multiple piercings and a tattoo who dyed her hair. Do I necessarily agree with their choices on this? No. Do we argue about it or get mad at each other over it? Again, no. We chose that lifestyle, same as the girls getting harassed in France (wrongfully so) for wearing burkinis, and same as you with whatever style of dress you've adopted.

There's a phenomenon in Christian culture called Christian Liberty that I want to raise to your attention, dear reader. What it means is that lifestyle convictions are left to the conscience of the individual and their interpretation of the Bible. The limits and boundaries of Christian Liberty are another hotly debated topic between denominations, but it nevertheless exists and often times Christians respect one another's convictions in the matter. It's when someone disrupts a church in an attempt to stuff their opposing conviction down the rest of the congregation's throats (while aware it's against all of their consciences) that things get sticky. And I'm not just talking about homosexuality, which is probably the first thing that came to mind for you. It can be something like whether or not to use wine or grape juice in Communion. It could be over the music used in the service. It can be over one's interpretation of the Holy Spirit's work in today's day and age and whether or not pew sitters have the ability to work miracles. It could be over the use of a catechism. It could be over the interpretation of the world's creation. It could be over the existence or lack thereof of Sunday School.

Christians cannot be boxed in by politics. And we are as diverse as diverse gets. Which has its advantages and disadvantages. Like a big city, a big religion means we have more criminals and trolls and bullies lurking around simply because of our immense size and differences.

I'm a (mostly) white (I say mostly because I have Japanese and Cherokee heritage that I correlate to deeply) homeschooled Christian girl. Likely the first thing you think of is the Duggars or Duck Dynasty. But I am not Southern. I'm from Philadelphia. I'm going to college with the goal of pursuing a career. Alcohol is consumed (in moderation, of course) in my house. My definition of modesty is very different from what most people think of when they hear it. I have a generally skeptical outlook on America. I dislike Ted Cruz. Race issues are very important to me. Courtship is not a word in my vocabulary. I don't hold to homeopathic medicine, though I respect it. I dislike the Christian film and literature industry immensely, with the exception of C.S. Lewis. But what is equally important to me is my theology.

I hold to paedobaptism, amillennialism, the regulative principle of worship, Calvinism, credocommunionism, Presbyterianism in form of church government, inerrancy, Sabbatarianism, among many other doctrines. Big words, I know. Big words that most Christians would disagree with (but that's okay. We in Christian circles often have many friends and family that have differing views when it comes to their faith).  You're not likely to find anything that agrees with me in a Christian bookstore. I am a part of a very small and very unknown (but nevertheless proudly noisy) branch of my religion, a minority among minorities. My point is that I am nothing near the Rachel character in Devoted. My question is, if I tell you I am a white homeschooled Christian girl who would like to have a family, are you automatically going to place me among the internet trolls, snake throwers, and rabid Trump supporters and therefore yell at me for every bad thing other people identifying as Christian have done to upset you? Are you automatically going to assume my parents abused me? Are you automatically going to assume I hate different groups of people?

That's stereotyping. It's inconsistency on the part of those who cry foul on my religious brothers and sisters for being stereotypers and haters simply because they're a part of particular demographic. It's also why I keep my mouth shut about my religious convictions on Twitter. It's not necessarily because I am ashamed of who I am. Not at all. It's rather because the immensity and the diversity and all of the nuances in Christianity, both historically, demographically, and theologically, are much too massive to fit in a 140 character sentence. It's also just because I don't really feel like defending myself in endless internet spats about my existence. This post is not to defend myself. I don't want to. Christians do way too much apologizing for their own existence in an attempt to connect with people outside of it when they've done nothing wrong to said people. Rather, it's to raise awareness that if anything is diverse, it's Christianity. If anything is misrepresented and stuffed in a box by the entertainment world, it's Christianity.

There are many, many, many, many branches to Christianity. There are many, many, many faces to it. I am all for embracing minorities. But Christianity is something that unites millions of people across the globe, regardless of demographics. It's really sad that it has been reduced to what's presented in Devoted: oppressive, neglectful, abusive, the bad guy, the obstacle parent, nothing but hate and tyranny. Something to escape. Something to defeat. There's definitely people in our ranks, sadly, who are this way (and they need to change or be rid of). But very few of us are actually like that. The rest of us just don't make the headlines and the hit posts.

Where is our positive representation in the literary market, specifically in Young Adult? And I'm talking about just even a slight presence, not the preachy sugar water stacked in Christian book stores.

I haven't found it yet. Not in today's market, anyway. Les Mis was the last decent film I saw with a positive representation of Christianity, but that book was also written in the 19th century, so there's that.

At the very least, stop making Christianity a one-dimensional, flat, enemy. It's 1. Inconsistent with the cry for the end of stereotypes, 2. ignorant, 3. unrealistic, 4. unnecessary, 5. putting the biggest religion in the WORLD into a tiny American Left box. You cannot stuff thousands of years of cultures, faces, stories, and thought-out beliefs into that tiny box structured by people who have created an imaginary, nonexistent majority/demographic of abusive, white, angry, hateful Christian males in the name of politics. Because it barely exists (there's only one Westboro Baptist Church and it has, like, maybe twenty members), and when you do that, you do it at the expense of millions of people around the world both today and in the past.

At the very least, when you DO meet a lovely young girl in a jean skirt with long hair, helping her mom herd along her many siblings, smile at her. Contrary to what you may think, unlike the Rachel character in Devoted, she probably loves her life and has her own convictions, opinions, and choices that while they are very different from yours, deserve your respect because she is an individual with the right to those convictions, opinions, and choices.

Please? Please? Anyone? Bueller?

Actually, no please. Just stop.

Instead, do me a favor. Look at this list.  I know it's Wikipedia, but all that means is that this list is not exhaustive. Let me say that again. This list is not exhaustive.

That's a lot of diversity.

Also, whether you agree or not, Christianity is statistically the biggest religion in the world (read: world. Not just white Republican Americans). When you adopt this anti-Christian attitude and stereotype Christians as white angry abusive men, you are stereotyping one of the largest and most diverse demographics in historical existence.

It's time to write Christianity back into the market, but to do so with the knowledge that it's a diverse, complicated religion that deserves respect as much as any other religion discussed in literature. It's time to recognize that Devoted is only one story, and it's not everyone's. It's time to be consistent.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Interview: Dr. Dan Williams

Hi everyone! I'm starting a new series in which I interview fellow unpublished or newly published writers and ask them about their writing. The goal is for y'all to make some new connections and get to know some other authors.

Today's spotlighted writer is Dr. Dan Williams! Dr. Williams was my English 101 professor last fall. He's known on my college campus for wearing crocs, for the campus reading series and their hilarious preview videos shown in chapel, for sitting in ceiling rafters during class, and for other general awesomeness. But he's also a great author, and he was generous enough to allow me to interview him for this blog series! He also draws:

1.      And the dreaded, standard first question! When did you start writing?

a.       I started writing in undergrad. My first creative writing class got me hooked. The teacher looked like an off-season Santa Claus—limping through a Christmas hangover, the snow-white that his hair and beard should have been was a February yellow. Mrs. Claus didn’t want to see him again until November. He looked crazy. He gave me excellent advice: never give up.   

2.      What was your first MS about?

a.       About some castle-times family traveling into a great northern European-ish wilderness to be eaten alive by trees. The characters had horrible names, names like Stretten and Brehonibeam. No wonder I sent them away to die.  

3.      What is your current MS about, and why do you love it?

a.       The idea came from something brutal: the way mice kill whole beehives. A mouse climbs onto the hive’s front porch and scratches at the door. So the bees send a drone down to check it out. The mouse eats that drone then scratches again. Another drone comes. The mouse eats that one too then scratches yet again. All the mice take their turns (this is the part that really sounds fake to me, but I think it’s real) scratching until the whole hive's gone, even the queen. So the story’s a dystopian thing where the entire world's an office building and all employees are drones. They each have their own little cell called a cube where they live. And the scratching mouse comes in the form of telephone calls that, now and then, send another employee away to die. 
b.      I love this because it gives me a chance to talk about one of the biggest things I can think of: the fear of death. I want my main character Arny to get over it, to face his inevitable (maybe) call with bravery. I want to get over my own fear. I think that’s part of why I’m writing this. Because I’m afraid.   

4.      Do you have a new shiny idea that’s distracting you from your current project? How do you keep your focus?

a.       Just this year I learned to stop trusting shiny ideas. I hope one day to hate them. I want to smell their stink (I once thought it was good perfume) miles away and greet them at the gate with a shotgun. They’re in the snakeoil business. The shiners show up because I’m having a hard time with my current project, the one that was once a shiny itself. I know this about shiners—they all turn into heartbreakingly heavy trackless tanks that put down roots faster than leeches. This is the life-cycle of a story: shiny goes quickly to dead-tank and then to…(and I don’t know if I’ve ever gotten beyond dead-tank).  
b.      But yes, I’ve got shiners. They’re there like hallucinations I have to ignore so they don’t get worse. I stay focused by knowing that following shiners is one of the most dangerous things a person can do, if they’re interested in having a happy life, or at the very least, a good one. 

5.      What are some things you love in real life that usually end up in your Mss?

a.       The ocean. The way I see it, the Atlantic. I’ve said for a long time that I want to write an ocean book, something that captures the way I feel about it. But it makes me tired to think about that book. I don’t know how to say it yet. I’ve got to live a lot longer and read a lot more before I try. It’s sort of like being in the mudroom of God’s palace and some angel says, “Come on in whenever you’re ready.” Most people would stay in the mudroom for a thousand years, getting ready.      

6.      Which fictional character would be your best friend?

a.       I think Tom Sawyer would be my best friend, and maybe Bilbo Baggins, once we’d roomed together long enough and had all the usual fights a person would have with a Hobbit—fights about schedules and pantries and my side of the room and your side. But in the woods, we’d be blood-brothers.   

7.      What authors would you say have most influenced your writing?

a.       Melville 
b.      Faulkner 
c.       Hemingway 
d.      Steinbeck 
e.       C.S. Lewis 
f.       Tolkien 
g.      Flannery O’Connor 
h.      Kafka 
i.        Stephen King 

8.      Where’s your favorite place to connect with other authors?

a.       Email, so far, is the finest place, though a healthy trustworthy writers’ group would be ideal. The trouble is, establishing that kind of group, one that lasts and is healthy and fun and helpful, is just about as difficult as finding a church that doesn’t leave you feeling chilly or like you’re being courted by a cult.  

9.      What else do you like to do besides writing?

a.       I’m in love with drawing. It’s been my constant companion for years, my oxygen in smotheringly boring meetings and waitings of all kinds.  

10.  Favorite GIF or meme?

a.       I don’t know if this counts, but it’s a pic of a person making a thoughtful face and thinking, “hmmmm…and yet another day has passed and I did not use Algebra once…very interesting.” 

11.  Anything else you’d like to add? A pitch? A reading suggestion? An advertisement?

a.       For all story writers, read, The Anatomy of Story by John Truby.

Thanks, Dr. Williams!! Best of luck to you and your writing!