Writing books is hard work.
After writing, revising, publishing, and touring with a memoir, 2011-2014,
I said I didn’t think I wanted to write another book.
The only exception would be if I felt called again.
When my friend Marilyn McEntyre
asked if I would join her and others on a
panel discussion at the Festival of Faith and Writing, I readily agreed.
When she asked if I wanted to join the same group in a book proposal, I agreed again.
When that idea didn’t pan out, I was frankly relieved not to write a book,
but disappointed not to work with Marilyn.
I was happy to just write short essays and give occasional speeches, often on the subject of aging or Jubilación.
In the meantime, a new friend, Judith Valente, had stimulated my interest in connecting aging and spirituality.
I was writing a comment online when I found myself saying
“I’ll bet Benedict’s Rule would have something to say relevant to grandparenting,”
thinking of Judith’s most recent book,
And that’s when it happened.
I felt called to two things simultaneously:
1. to write about the spirituality of grandparenting
2. to ask Marilyn if she wanted to write about this subject with me
Marilyn enthusiastically agreed.
She has eight grandchildren and has been deeply involved in their lives
We immediately started brainstorming what kind of book to write
and what publisher to approach.
Within weeks, we had drafted a proposal and sent a query to an editor I knew
at Fortress Press which already has Marilyn’s 20th book in the pipeline.
We are delighted to be among the first authors included in a new imprint: Broadleaf Books!
After a few more weeks, we had book contracts in the mail.
Soon after I signed my name on the contract,
I read an article about Flannery O’Conner’s prayers, written when she was just starting as a writer.
Here’s my favorite:
“Dear God, I am so discouraged about my work.
I have the feeling of discouragement that is. I realize I don’t know what I realize.
Please help me dear God to be a good writer . . . .
That is so far from what I deserve, of course, that I am naturally struck with the nerve of it.
Contrition in me is largely imperfect.”
These raw and confused prayers, by a young woman who would develop
one of the clearest, sharpest literary voices of the twentieth century, inspire me to petition
the Source of all creation also.
Though contrition in me is largely imperfect also, here is my prayer:
My dear God, I haven’t forgotten how hard it is to write.
How my arms, shoulders, and neck ache after a day of too much sitting in front of a screen
and how long it takes to get out even the *#*# rough draft.
Help me to deserve the important subject to which you have called me: grandparenting.
There is so much I don’t know.
I don’t know, for example, what it would be like to raise grandchildren because of my child’s addiction.
I don’t know what it would be like to be cut off from my grandchildren by their parents.
I don’t know what differences race and class make in the lives of many grandparents.
My life reeks of privilege.
But I want so much for every child and every grandparent to be loved.
“I realize I don’t know what I realize.”
Please help me dear God to be a good writer despite all these blind spots.
To be almost as good as Marilyn will be fine. 🙂
If Flannery O’Connor and Thomas Merton showed the way
before, during, and after they sit down to write,
surely, surely I must do the same.
Do you pray? For your family? About writing or other work you do? Have you never prayed or have you given up on prayer? Please share. All stories welcome here.