It was my second semester at Murray State. I was at my second MFA residency, enjoying the week with my fellow writer friends. I was proud to have a semester of poetry writing and reading under my belt, and had a fresh batch of poems I’d brought to be workshopped. Two of the poems were “religious” – one was about Mary Magdalene and one was about doubt (though the setting of it was at an Orthodox liturgy).
I was meeting with my professor/poetry mentor, Brian Barker, one day and he said something that shocked me. “I think you’ve found your niche . . . . spiritual writing,” he told me. I balked. Spiritual writing? No. I was not going to be a spiritual writer. I could write about other things, too! I did not want to be pigeonholed. I was going to be a real writer. To prove it, the next semester I wrote poems about sex. And childhood. And anything but “spiritual stuff.”
Do you know the saying, “You can take a girl out of the South, but not the South out of the girl?” I kinda feel that way about me and God. As hard as I’ve tried at times to get away from him, ignored him, doubted him, and been angry with him, I can never completely let him go. Me and God, we’re in it for the long run no matter how hard it is or how unfaithful I am sometimes. This is who I am. I am a spiritual person, and it comes out in my writing.
Brian was right. I just wasn’t ready to admit it yet. Maybe I have found my niche. I still don’t want to be pigeonholed, and I still want to write some things that will be for a wider audience than just Christians. But I know that who I am will be present in my writing, either explicitly or subtly. (That’s why I like Madeleine L’Engle so much – her novels are not “Christian” novels, but you sense a subtle undercurrent of belief in a higher power in them.)
I am a spiritual writer. I’m learning to be okay with this. (And I think – hope – I am a real writer, too.)
Now, all this to say that I have BIG news:
I’m going to have an essay published in a book called Soul Bare, which will be a collection of essays about authenticity in the midst of faith. You can read more about the book HERE. The title of the book may change before publication, but the idea behind the book will remain the same, and my essay (titled Wrestling With God in the Arthouse Theater – of course, that title might change, too) will be in it!