Wednesday, March 31, 2010


By: Tessa Afshar, author of the upcoming novel, Pearl in the Sand, released in September 2010

I have an impressive talent. I can lose anything. Sometimes, it’s unimportant things like the shopping list I spent twenty minutes getting exactly right, disappearing just before I go shopping. Other times, I manage to lose precious things, like the gorgeous, wafer-thin watch my brother gave me for graduation. I am capable of making things vanish with more alacrity than a bar of dark chocolate would disappear in the hands of a jilted woman. My latest work of genius involves losing my favorite FILA workout clothes. I have no clue where they could be. It’s not as if I have the kind of life style that could remotely explain losing one’s clothes. If misplacing things was a talent the world appreciated, I could make a decent living out of it.

Once Os Guinness was speaking at our church and I was assigned to act as his hostess. After seeing me in action for a couple of days, he told me the story of his Oxford professor who one day, standing in the middle of a rotunda, looked with puzzlement at Os. “From which door did I just exit?” he asked.

Os pointed behind him. “That one, Sir.”

The Oxford don nodded sagely. “That means I’ve already eaten lunch.”

Os told me that professor reminded him of me. I smiled in agreement. No use getting defensive when faced with truth.

So when I was working on my novel Pearl in the Sand and the pages started mounting, I realized that my thumb drive was in clear and present danger. Where could I put this more-precious-than-gold item of technology housing every word of (to me) irreplaceable manuscript? I knew this was too important to handle alone. I had to ask a friend for help. Fortunately Jane was very willing to humbly stoop from the heights of genius and give me a hand. The fact that she is an action figure is beside the point. Nobody’s perfect.

Part of this forgetfulness is essentially the way I am made. It’s in my genes. My mom, for example, lost her children in public places. Fortunately someone honest always found and returned us safely. But it’s not merely a matter of heredity. It’s also my life. There’s simply too much in it. Work, family, friends, chores, bills, housework: it all adds up to a monumental pile – a veritable mountain. My brain cannot hold it all in. I make lists to make myself remember, only to misplace the list. And lose my workout clothes.

I don’t think I was designed for this pace, even though our culture venerates this unreasonable rhythm and calls it a good work ethic. So this Lent I decided to take God seriously about a Sabbath. I have committed to taking one Sabbath day off each week. I use the day to be still before God, to meditate and pray and rest. I do nothing that feels to my heart like work. I fulfill no expectations. I write no lists. I chase after no chores. And it’s amazing how good my memory becomes on those days. Sort of like the thumb drive of Pearl in the Sand sitting so securely in Jane’s hands, once a week, my memory rests in the hands of a God who covers my gaps and rests my soul.

Photo by: 
Christine Richenburg
Dovetail Design

Monday, March 29, 2010

When Books are Burned

By: Stephanie Duncan, marketing assistant at MP

In 1933, in one of the first steps leading to the Holocaust, the Nazi regime ordered that any and all books deemed “subversive” to Hitler’s rule must be burned.  There were book-burnings in the streets, carried out by university students and Nazi supporters, who collected all censored literary works and threw them into the flames. 

Surprisingly, among the books sentenced to burning were works by what we now view as classics, works by Helen Keller, Albert Einstein, Jack London, Upton Sinclair, and H.G. Wells.  Philosophical and political works were designated for destruction, but also children’s literature, theatrical works, and stories. 

It is something of a wonder that one of the most powerful political movements of its day would feel so threatened by a story.

Perhaps the books were burned because even Nazis knew the insurmountable power of words.  Perhaps they were burned because language is so strong, so potentially dangerous, that the Germans only knew one way to address it: to treat it as an enemy.  Hitler himself attested to the importance of words as he used prophetic voice, persuasive rhetoric, and euphemism as some of his primary weapons for his Nazi cause. 

While Hitler exploited language for evil during the Holocaust, other words were uttered, at great personal risk, for the sake of truth.  Dietrich Bonheoffer was one such voice; a Lutheran pastor who actively opposed Hitler, Bonheoffer urged his congregations not to conform to Nazi ideas up until his execution shortly before the end of the war.  Irene Harand, an Austrian human rights activist, wrote a public response to Hitler’s Mein Kampf, or “My Struggle”, which she titled, “His Struggle: An Answer to Hitler”.  Martin Niemoller organized the Confessional Church, a Christian group that resisted the Nazi movement, and avowed in the last sermon before his arrest, “No more are we ready to keep silent at man’s behest when God commands us to speak…” 
These voices and many more spoke out against the deafening tide of propaganda, and they were heard.  Helen Keller, whose own books were publicly burned including The Story of My Life, responded to the censorship by saying, “History has taught you nothing if you think you can kill ideas. Tyrants have tried to do that often before, and the ideas have risen up in their might and destroyed them.”

Friday, March 5, 2010

From the Desk of Acquisitions Editor, Randall Payleitner

On this side of the desk, where the potential manuscripts sometimes pile as high as the midway point of my computer monitor, things can seem rather hectic. Recognizing each possible book as pieces of an individual’s heart is a tall task when there are so many pieces of so many hearts lined up one after the other. But it is a great task—never have I been more reminded of this than last weekend…

With my pile-pocked desk behind me, I boarded a 737 headed for Denver and the Jerry Jenkins Christian Writer’s Guild Writing for the Soul Conference. Before you get too jealous, my snowboard stayed at home and I only caught one brief glimpse of the snowy Rocky Mountain peaks between the clouds.

While there, myself and 350 other lovers of the written word heard wisdom on delivering the bread from Max Lucado; creativity and God’s 5-year-plan from Phil Vischer; the importance of editing from Jerry Jenkins; and the joy of story-telling from many others. In between these main floor sessions I met with somewhere in the ballpark of 80 people about their individual book ideas. Half of these proposals were fiction.

I love a good story. I am enthralled by well-thought-out character development. And I am a sucker for a well-timed (non-cheap) plot twist. As I sat across the table from so many people (whose names I couldn’t even begin to remember—but who were all very, very nice), I couldn’t help but get grabbed by their plotlines. One woman had written her novel over the course of 15 years and she just decided to edit it one more time. Another potential author had written his work in 6 weeks—all 120,000 words of it.

Who knows if any of these stories will become books someday? That is for fiction teams, acquisitions editors, and publishing boards across the country to figure out… but I know that the best of these stories, and the best of all stories, pulled me in like a tractor beam.

Max Lucado put it best on the first night in Denver: “If there’s anything greater than writing… it’s when writing connects.” As writers we want to connect to that one reader in our mind, and as readers we want to feel as if this book was written for us.

Randall Payleitner

Acquisitions Editor, Spiritual Growth
Moody Publishers
Follow on Twitter: @Payleitner
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