The truth is: I haven’t been reading much this month. And I know. Now you think I’m a total impostor, just pretending to be a decently-read writer. But I did listen to a great book on Audible during our SEVENTEEN-HOUR car ride to and from Charleston, South Carolina, thanks to a terrific recommendation from a friend. It’s called, The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Goal at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
My guess is that this book might make for a better listen than actual read, but the author does a pretty splendid job at recreating the suspence of each of the races that led up to this University of Washington rowing team winning gold at the 1936 Olympics. (Oops, spoiler alert.) In fact, our family pulled into our driveway just as the team, under the watchful eye of Hitler, was trailing Germany’s boat in the gold medal race. “Shhh!” Ryan and I hushed, as we motioned for the kids to get their bags and head into the house, breathless to hear the end.
And just for the record (and this is a freebie), I love my Audible subscription. It’s usually how I “read” most of my fiction and narrative non-fiction. Other great books I’ve listened to recently are: Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry, A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving, The Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan (although Tolan, whom I’m convinced is either an asthmatic or heavy smoker, is a mediocre narrator), All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, as well as pretty much any book that Malcolm Gladwell has written. You, too, can brag about how well-read you are when really, you’re just killing time while folding laundry, ferrying kids, and rolling meatballs for tomorrow’s sauce.
If I haven’t been reading this month, I have been up to other things—I promise! I have some other news as well.
First, I’m attending the Festival of Faith and Writing in Grand Rapids in a couple of weeks. Along with three writers whom I very much admire (Micha Boyett, Marlena Graves, and Tish Harrison Warren), we’ll be hosting a panel discussion entitled, “Writing for the Joy of It: Surrendering Our Need for Status.” As we’ve described, “Panelists discuss the wonder and ache of the writing life and the spiritual practices necessary for flourishing.” If you’re coming to the festival, our panel is scheduled for Thursday, April 14 at 3:15pm. I’d love to see you!
Speaking of the ache of the writing life, it’s been painful around these parts in the last couple of months. I have been working to revise my second book, which is finally TITLED. Keeping Place: Reflections on the Meaning of Home will release in the spring of 2017. I thought second books were supposed to be easier than firsts (kinda like Nathan was an easier baby than Audrey), but alas, it was not to be so for me. Let’s just say that my editor had to ask me to clarify my thesis after reading my first draft. (Oh my, am I still in sophomore English with Mrs. Haney?) On outsider reader, hired by IVP to read the first draft, compared it to a collection of post-it notes. Good post-it notes, mind you, but in case you’re wondering POST-IT NOTES DO NOT MAKE A BOOK. (For reasons unknown to me, it seems to be an all-caps day.) That said, I turned in draft #2 today, a little more confident that there is paste between the post-it notes and a solid thesis on which the book stands. In short, this book is an exploration of the human longing for home and God’s call to its shared labor. If you haven’t guessed, it is absolutely a book for men and women, married and single, child-less and child-full, and I’m excited to share it with you (in, er, eleven or so months).
Another thing I do in my very free time is read other people’s books (upon request) to consider endorsing them. I don’t usually agree to endorse a book that comes randomly across my desk, but I absolutely love to support the work of great writers I know. I got a little geeky this week when James K.A. Smith’s new book came in the mail this week with my endorsement ON THE SIDE FLAP. If you have read Teach Us to Want (or heard me speak or talked for me for a period longer than five minutes), you have heard me recommend Smith’s, Desiring the Kingdom. (At this point, I should really be paid as a publicist.) That book gave me the working framework for TUTW. But granted, Desiring the Kingdom, though not an academic book, is still a bit dense for a lot of people who’d prefer something more accessible. Well, now you have it – so no more excuses. As I say in the abbreviated version of my endorsement, “As a means for re-imagining the task of discipleship, this book should be required reading for every pastor, lay leader, and parent.” So yeah, that’s pretty much everyone. PRE-ORDER!
And finally, because all the cool kids are doing it, I plan to launch a newsletter soon. I’m calling it, Miscellany: Odds and Ends from Jen Pollock Michel. You can sign up on my home page. (If you’re a blog subscriber, I’ll migrate you to the newsletter list automatically, and if you’re not interested in receiving it, please feel free to unsubscribe. I promise you won’t hurt my feelings.) Regular columns of this monthly-ish newsletter will be: On Glendon Avenue (not my real street address, ok?), On My Desk, On the Road, On My Bookshelf, On My Mind, On My Knees. If you’re interested in the behind-the-scenes stuff around these parts and just generally keeping up with what I’m writing and where I’m speaking, I’d love to keep in touch!