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Archive for March, 2010

Reading Daniel Menaker’s A Good Talk has heightened my awareness of conversation’s power. Amazing things happen when people really talk to each other. We take risks. We make discoveries. We connect.

But sometimes it’s hard to find common ground.

A recent Newsweek column written by Neal Gabler http://www.newsweek.com/id/226457 offers an interesting perspective.

Gabler says that celebrity is, “actually a new art form that competes with—and often supersedes—more traditional entertainments like movies, books, plays, and TV shows…[It] performs…many of the functions those old media performed in their heyday: among them, distracting us, sensitizing us to the human condition, and creating a fund of common experience around which we can form a national community. I would even argue that celebrity is the great new art form of the 21st century.”

I wouldn’t go quite so far as Gabler. But it does make sense to me that celebrity narratives allow us a surefire way to connect with people dissimilar to us. Even if she differs from me in term of politics, religion, economic status, etc., the Stranger at the Coffee Shop will likely have an opinion about the latest scandal. And even more important, if she and I engage in a conversation about that broadly shared narrative, we might begin to agree on some issues of morality.

Certainly there are hazards to celebrity-conversation. Proverbs warns us about gossip (which I understand to be the divulging of secrets and creating/perpetuating scandal). As does Paul in Romans.  And I’ll do my best not to judge anyone, celebrity or not. Only God knows the heart.

But being able to discuss the consequences of behavior with an example of, for instance, infidelity using the Tiger Woods story allows us to really engage with another person who, presumably, has a conscience and a moral center. Speaking in the abstract about the same matter would be hardly as powerful. And if we can discover empathy for the parties involved, I believe God smiles on that.

Agree or disagree. I’m open. But I know we can agree that nothing allows us to connect like a shared narrative. That’s why I’m so grateful we’re in the business of storytelling. Dear Authors, your novels allow readers to engage in narratives where the life of faith in Christ Jesus is core. That’s why I’m carrying a copy of People and a dozen of your novels to my local coffee shop!

  • What topics of conversation do you usually gravitate to or find yourself in?
  • How do you see celebrity lives affecting our culture and conversations today (for better or worse)?

Engaging in conversation, I’m yours truly, Ami.

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In this weeks’ post, I want to offer some well-deserved encouragement and talk about quieting the voices that say “do more”.

I’ve been thinking about you, the Nelson Fiction authors.  I’ve been thinking about the stories you share with the world.  The sense of community you bring to our team.  The glory God gets through your novels.  And I know All of it matters.  The time you spend sitting at a desk or typing at the kitchen table.  The schedule you must manage to fit in the things we ask of you.  So today, I want to lift you up and tell you how much we value who you are and what you do. Thank you for being a part of our team.

In the last few weeks, I’ve had calls with several of you.  Often, the discussion is about things you can/should be doing to promote your books, ways to do social media better, etc.  And what you’ve been hearing from us more recently is that there is no “one size fits all” program that’s going to work for everyone.  Rather than us say that you need to “blog, tweet, update Facebook, and face North for three minutes each Monday”, what’s better is to personalize it.  Do you love to blog? If yes, then you’ll be passionate about updating your posts and sharing that content with others.  If you’re better at engaging with people through twitter or Facebook, then those are the places where you will shine.  And if you like to face North for no reason…well, I can’t help you 🙂

I could make this a longer post, but it’s not needed.  We’re partners with you on this journey, and being partners means we help wherever needed.  Do you need someone to help you manage your social media?  If so, let’s talk.  If you need help setting something up or just need to talk through what’s Not working, let’s talk.  And if you want to brainstorm ideas together, let’s meet in the Bahamas.  With all the comments you hear from the industry, friends, and consumers, we want to be the place you head when life gets noisy.

Smiling about you,

Jennifer

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“Where do you get all of your ideas?”

I hear this question so often it’s not even a surprise any more.

My response is simple, “Where don’t I get ideas?”

All around there are stories and story pieces in every element of life. I have more ideas than several lifetimes could develop. I find them in conversations at Starbucks, in stories my friends and family tell, in the headlines, in scenes of movies, television, other books, Wikipedia…pretty much anything can spark an idea.

Recently, my husband Nieldon and I were watching Planet Earth. It was a section that began with aerial views of the Amazon River and Jungle. There were dozens of waterfalls and a mist rising like some surreal otherworldly vision. A deep wonder pulls from within me whenever I watch nature shows like this. I feel mesmerized by the scenes.

The Planet Earth show produced by the BBC, Discovery Channel, and NHK is “the definitive look at the diversity of our planet.” Filming occurred in 204 locations in 62 countries on all 7 continents. Over 2,000 days in the field and 71 cameramen and women were needed to capture the footage. And the footage is spectacular.

“I don’t see how people can watch something like this and not believe in God,” I said to my husband as we watched a type of flying squirrel careen from tree to tree.

This sparked a discussion about how science can be religion and the theory of evolution that morphed into us talking about how the Christians community hasn’t always been proactive or relevant about certain essential topics in culture.

At a section about frogs, Nieldon said, “I wonder why little boys like to kill things. Look at how amazing that frog is?”

The footages showed them leaping and climbing, their colors and details extraordinary. The frogs were works of art. When Nieldon was a boy in the Philippines, he killed a frog because it was ugly. He’s never quite gotten over the guilt of it. We talked about original sin from there.

Then we viewed a fungus that gets inside the brains of insects. It drives the insect insane. Then the fungus bursts out of the bug’s head like something from an Alien movie.
“Imagine if that fungus mutated and could infect humans,” one of us said. The intellectual topic of zombies evolved from there.

From one episode of Planet Earth, I can come up with countless ideas for stories: aliens and zombies, a coming-of-age book about a boy who kills a frog, historical fiction with explorers discovering remote jungle locations…. Where do ideas come from people ask?
One of my very favorite parts in Planet Earth is when the narrator, Sigourney Weaver, says some version of, “We don’t know why this happens….”

For all our theology, science, studies, intellectual discussions, and story ideas, we can never truly understand who God is. We understand God about as well as that frog understands us. It just isn’t possible. It’s a reminder that I find extremely comforting, making it simpler for me to be as Christ said to be, “like a child.”

I’m sure the producers of Planet Earth didn’t intend to show the awesomeness of God through their program, and yet, that’s exactly what they’ve done. I can’t watch five minutes without feeling humbled and awed by our Creator.

Our fiction at Thomas Nelson is vast in genre but tied together by being books that offer a Christian worldview. Sometimes Christ’s message of redemption is vivid and tugs wildly at the souls of the readers. Other times, God’s love is woven in with subtle power. At times, it’s the Holy Spirit’s invisible touch that reflects the Divine beyond what we know we’ve created.

From ideas to stories to bound books on the shelves, we’re all honored to be part of creating something reminiscent of what God’s creation does:

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language
where their voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
(Psalm 19:1-4)

I’d love to hear what brings out a wonder of God in you? Where do you get your ideas?  How do you find stories reflect the greatness of our Lord and Savior?

Sincerely,
Cindy Martinusen-Coloma

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