How We Write About Faith: New Seminar and Workshop starting Feb 2

Buddhist, Pagan, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Agnostic, Atheist—we all have a belief system–“faith” in something, a set of beliefs, a god, gods, guiding principles, morality.  It’s hard to express sometimes WHY we believe these things, or HOW they guide us, or how we know they are TRUE.  Sometimes we’ve been hurt by religion, disappointed by faith.  We want to talk about that too.  Maybe we want to pass our beliefs, our experiences down to our kids.  We want to explain it to ourselves, sometimes.  We’d like to keep a record.  But pinning down the inexpressible nature of faith and belief is difficult.
WRITING FAITH SEMINAR AND WORKSHOP
Come join a writing workshop that explores how we talk about faith.  Starting this Saturday, Feb 2, we’ll have a one day seminar/workshop from 10-4 that explores Writing Faith with writing tips, games, exercises, and a few readings that map out the basic writing techniques of writing about Faith.  Then Feb 8-March 22, join us on Fridays from 5-8 (potluck snacks), at the Whitehorse United Church to explore more in depth how others write about their faith and get some good feedback on writings you may write about your faith.  The group is always ecumenical and eclectic and supportive of new writers.  It has been a successful group four times now, three in the Yukon.  We teach mostly memoir, but fiction as well.
We don’t teach theology here; we teach writing.  We are including writings beyond Christian writings this time around—mostly from the Best Spiritual Writing 2013 that just came out.  We aim to be inclusive.  We have readings from Pulitzer prize winning author, Annie Dillard, as well as Anne Lamott, Andre Dubus, E.O. Wilson, Langston Hughes, Jhumpa Lahiri, Ron Hansen, Thich Nhat Hanh, and other writers covering a broad spectrum of spirituality—for techniques.  We play writing games.  We’re kind of like a summer camp for writers.  Only in the winter.

Speculating Canada reviews my story, “One Nation Under Gods”

Really thrilled that Speculating Canada reviewed my short story, “One Nation Under Gods” which appeared in Tesseracts 14. It’s hard to get short fiction reviews and they are so valuable.  The SF/F/H community should hold tight and nurture as many reviewers as we can. With a growing market of books, the discerning reader looks to reviews to help choose what to read.  And reviewers who choose short fiction, new authors, and anthologies help support beginning writers who are starting their careers, hoping that someone notices.  So we can’t fete reviewers enough–we need them, we love them, we should be very kind to them.

I’d say this for any thoughtful reviewer, even if Derek had NOT liked my work.  It’s the way he liked my work that makes me happy. 

Speculating Canada has a really great aim:

This site has been created in response to the overwhelming number of people who are surprised that Canadian literature includes the fantastic. Canadian SF, fantasy, and horror have been cast into a literary ghetto under the power structure of CanLit, and cast as either inferior literatures, or literatures that are not ‘of here’, i.e. from abroad. Yet, Canadian speculative fiction has a long history in Canada and engages with ideas of Canadian identity, belonging, and concepts of nationhood, place and space (both ‘the final frontier’ type, and the geographical).

Realist fiction is often seen as the only ‘truly’ Canadian fiction, but even realist fiction speculates, postulates and creates a fantastic idea, just one that is based more closely on the normative world around us than most SF authors are inclined to do.

Canadian SF allows for the engagement with ideas such as What is Canada? What does belonging mean? What is the nature of ‘human’? Why are things the way they are? How do we change things? Can things change?

The appeal of Canadian SF is not just regional, but has implications for a wider audience. Canadians, long un/comfortable with our identity as a hybrid of the American and English, Francophones and Anglophones, Aboriginal and settlers, and the multicultural mix that is embedded in our philosophy, means that we are comfortable with questions of identity and the exploration of our place, ideas that naturally lend themselves to science fiction, fantasy, and horror. We live in a world that is unsure of itself, and uncomfortable with ideas of belonging, and Canadian SF plays with ideas of belonging, disrupts the normal (or what has come to be seen as normal) and allows for a new way of experiencing the world.

As for the review–well, I’ll let you read most of it as his site, but here’s a nice chunk:

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CBC’s DNTO to air my story on Coming Out to My Church for “Lost Causes”

Definitely Not the Opera, (DNTO) a CBC Radio One program devoted to the art of storytelling in Canada, asked me to tell my story of coming out to my church for their Nov 3 show “Lost Causes”.

I had pitched the idea to them last year for a different show called “Making Enemies” but withdrew the pitch because a) I don’t think I meant to make enemies, nor do I think I have made enemies; and 2) because I didn’t want to restir a pot that has finally calmed down.

But they remembered my pitch.  And they sought me out.  Which is humbling, and cool.  We recorded on Friday morning and they are editing my lengthy story to 3-4 minutes.  I appreciate Andrew Friesen’s belief that my story was important and needed to be told.  I feel like the story is more appropriate under “Lost Causes” because trying to reason with people who don’t want to listen to you, or discuss with you–and believing that you alone have to spark change–well, it can feel like a “Lost Cause”.  But in the end–and the end hasn’t come yet–who knows if the cause is lost?  I think every person who says the church must look at the evidence, must consider the Christian testimonies of LGBT folks in the discussion, is a step towards change.  We need more people who realize how many people have fallen away from the faith, have decided against Christ, have been repelled from the church, and who, sometimes when there is no hope left, taken their own lives, all because the Church has historically refused to consider the scriptures in an accepting light–and this causes their members to refuse to accept their children in an accepting light.  This splits familes.  My God and my Christ are not what I encounter when I come into a Baptist Church anymore.  I daresay they wouldn’t recognize it.  Churches are not all one defined Mass though–as many churches are beginning to change their minds about LGBT people.  Episcopals, Lutherans, Presbyterians, United Church of Canada–all have begun seeing that this is just the next issue the church has to rethink.  As it did slavery, race, and its treatment of Women.  And divorce.  Change comes when people inside churches decide they can’t hold false doctrine anymore.  Christianity and Faith are not the problem.  Interpretation is.

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Recreation of The Last Supper: Johnny’s Cafe remix

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Here’s a recreation of The Last Supper at Johnny’s Cafe on the campus of Calvin College in Grand Rapids Michigan. April 20 2012.

From Left to Right: Daniel VandeBunte, Kit Graham, Hannah Chee, Annie Bultheis, Seth Wilson, Emily Diener, Joe Gibson, Walter T. Runn, Kaile VanOene, Linda Anderson, Cotter Koopman, and Peter Rockhold. With great thanks to all participants! 🙂

Writing Faith Workshop begins, Feb 10, 5-8pm, Whitehorse United Church

  How do you write about your “faith”?  How do you describe the indescribable, the ineffable, the otherworldly? the grief or joy or miracle or peace or disappointment that you have because of your faith?  Everyone can argue about the value or lack of value in “religion”–and it’s an easy connect-the-dots to create your own pictures of what organized religion has done in the world.  It’s harder to write about personal faith or your personal interactions with religion–what keeps you going, what happened to you that you know no one would believe, about the anguish of trying to live in a real, faulty, fragile world, when others ask you to strive for peace, patience, happiness, even joy.

This writing workshop will explore how people write about these very personal experiences, or their thoughts about faith and religion and its very real presence in their lives, or the lives of those around them.  We’ve had students write about their relationships with their parents, their children, their grandchildren, experiences in nature, in confronting others who aren’t on the same page.  We have had students who are believers, non-believers, unsure, people of various faiths.  All faiths are welcome–come with what’s important to you, open to what is important to others. This isn’t a dogma class.  It’s not a class to teach you from the top down.  It’s for you to teach us from the ground up through your experiences, your writing.

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My short piece in Geez Magazine #24, “Privilege” issue, on coming out

Ironically, my pastor at RBC suggested I write for Geez magazine.  I don’t think he imagined what piece I would eventually write for them.  But here it is, Issue #24, on “privilege”.  I wrote the fast version of my coming out at church.  I centered it on the idea of privilege–of the privileges I had as a single, white male Christian who had leadership potential and of the privileges I no longer had when I added “gay” to that mix.

The church has to change.  It has to.  It may not change from those fighting it on the outside, but it will have to incorporate change if it is to survive further.  It faces irrelevance, it postures with discrimination, it plays favorites, it values money.

Not all churches–no.  (When I say a statement like this I have to stop and say, Thank you, churches that are moving more towards inclusion, social justice, focusing on issues like poverty, the environment, civil rights.  You do exist, but I wouldn’t, yet, call you the “Church”–as the “Church” tends to be the monolithic Catholic Castle or the Evangelical Juggernaut.  One day, you will take on that mantle–you will be the “Church” and it will have a positive ring.  You will convince other churches that focusing on discrimination is not the answer.)

Anyway, there it is, in Geez #24.  If this brings you to Talking Dog, welcome.  There’s lots there, I hope, that will spark conversation.  If this entry leads you to Geez, welcome to Geez.  There’s lots there that will spark conversation as well.  It’s a valuable, important magazine carrying on “the” conversations we need to have happen.  It is intrepid, bold, and unflinching.

I would marry Geez magazine if it looked like a bear and loved me back.

*apologies to Kevin James, pictured, who is not gay.

“…his cultivation of genuine menace…”: a review of “One Nation Under Gods” at Portal

Val Grimm, over at the Portal, gave me a good review for my short story, “One Nation Under Gods”!  Thanks, Val.  I’m always thrilled that there are people who will review short fiction, and anthologies.  Thank you, Val!  Val reviews the whole anthology, Tesseracts 14, story by story.  Here is his review of mine:

The author of “One Nation Under Gods”, Jerome Stueart, emigrated to Yukon from the States in 2007, and his former citizenship is evident in the themes and content of his story. I’m not biased in its favor because of my nationality, nor simply because its dark vision seems in concord with my fears. This story succeeds, in my eyes, because of his detailed worldbuilding, the realistic relationship between the narrator and his sister, and his cultivation of genuine menace, an evocation of the way people can be treated as things. In the world of this story (which in outlook and some tropes puts me a bit in mind of Steve Darnall and Alex Ross’ 1997 comic Uncle Sam) concepts like Freedom and Patriot are incarnate as deities, administered by priests and priestesses, and the Statue of Liberty herself is known to walk abroad. The history of the gods is the history of the country, and its people are required to memorize that catechism or pay with their lives in particularly grotesque ways; if a child fails the standardized test which is a mandated rite of passage, he or she is transformed into a public object, anything from a soda shop to a garbage can. Stueart skillfully incorporates the conflict between individuality and vested religious and political powers; the way those powers can intertwine and what that merging means; the clash between idealism or perception cultivated through propaganda and reality, between history as the study of people in power versus the study of the people’s past; and the transformation of people into instruments, people into numbers.—Val Grimm at the Portal.