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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Writing and Reading When the Living Ain't Easy

“Summer time and the living is easy…”

How's your summer time going? Is life carefree, a perpetual vacation?

I’ve noticed among my social media acquaintances a growing number of please-pray requests, coming in fast and strong. Because life for them has hit more snags than they're used to.

Last month, I wrote about writing in a time of discontent. Based on the needs of friends—as well as those in my own family—I don’t think the storms of discontent have morphed into perpetual sunshine and calm. Instead, I think the clouds are growing anvil heads and their undersides are darkening.

I wonder what it felt like in Europe between the two world wars when leaders were claiming all was right, all was well. A few heard the worrisome words, the drums signaling a different truth. I’m probably not alone in imagining that we’re in a similar situation in the world today. All is not right on so many levels, and yet we must continue to live and try to thrive—and to help our fellow men to thrive.

As writers and readers, how do we do that?

What is your calling as a writer? Is it to entertain and help readers rise above their worries, to help them focus on possibility instead of any pain they may be experiencing? Is it to call them to arms? To call them to prayer? To point readers in one direction or another?

Once you know your goal, how do you achieve it?

And if you’re a reader instead of a writer, what draws you? A fantasy to help take your mind off the issues at hand? A romance to help you believe in happy-ever-after? A story of hope? A story of loss? A tale of true grit or a hopeful parable?

I may have mentioned that I’m working—have been working, will be working (the process feels interminable, especially after I divided the manuscript into two books)—on my third (and fourth) Beaufort book. As I write, I can’t escape the feeling that this story needs to offer a little more, a little something for the times in which we live. Hope, yes, but what else?

I’m listening again to an audiobook by Charles Martin. Thunder and Rain digs into tough subjects, does it well, and does it without preaching. Martin’s stories (I’ve read them all at least once) compel me to thought, to an examination of my own motives as a writer and as a person. I can’t pay a higher compliment than that. Many authors write good stories. Readers (most of them) seem to think mine are good. But what about that extra something, that thing Charles Martin and a few others have achieved?

We’ve always needed the more such stories provide, but I think in times such as this, we may not even be aware of our need for books that take us deeper into the true and the rare, books that touch the heart and compel us, perhaps unconsciously, to wonder about goodness and faith.

What about you? Do you agree? Disagree? Let’s talk.

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Normandie studied sculpture in Italy before receiving a BA, summa cum laude with special honors in English. Her women’s fiction has garnered numerous awards across the country, including a recent final in the Maggie (Heavy Weather): Becalmed (2013), Sailing out of Darkness (2013), and Heavy Weather(2015). Her first romantic suspense, Two from Isaac’s House, released in November 2015 and was a Romantic Times Top Pick. From Fire into Fire is her fifth book. A lifelong sailor, she and her husband spent a number of years on board their 50-foot ketch, Sea Venture, in the Sea of Cortez, Mexico. 


  1. Excellent post, Normandie, and something I've been wrestling with lately. I listened to a podcast--Write from the Deep, which had Mary Demuth as a guest--that talked about this very subject. Mary was saying that so many Christian books--both nonfiction and fiction--are shallow and cover the same old topics. In order to write deep stories, writers must dig into Scripture and wrestle with great truths. Are we too busy for that these days? Too distracted? Worse, are we afraid of what we might find if we go deep with God? There is no shallow checklist for writing deep truths. Your stories are always thought provoking, Normandie. It's clear you've been in those deep places with God.

  2. Thank you, Robin, but I feel the need to deepen them more, and I'm not sure how to do it--so, another opportunity to seek His heart. That podcast sounds like something I'd enjoy.

  3. Thank you for this encouragement to dig deeper into the why of our stories. I think it is when we are most surrendered to listening to Him that we discover His handprint is in those things we write. I am a long time fan of Charles Martin. Wrapped in Rain is my favorite and I am anxiously awaiting his new release this fall. Write from the deep is a truly inspiring podcast that feeds my writer's soul! Blessings

  4. Good words for all of us, Normandie! I subscribe to them. Karen Ball and Erin Taylor Young do them. I'll send you the link, or Google Write From the Deep. If I try to put a link here, I'll be labeled as a spammer. lol

  5. Linda, thank you for your kind words. I loved Wrapped in Rain--but then I've loved all his books. And, Ane, thank you for sending the link. Excellent!

  6. Thanks so much for writing this. I've been struggling with this very concept. Though I try to have something of value added with each of my stories, in my WIP, I feel like I'm writing fluff, even though I dealing with a heavy subject of loss, abuse, and bitterness. I think I'd better hit my knees a little more before going back to work. Thanks for your openness.

    THanks, Robin Patchen. I'll also Google "Write from the Deep." I know I need some help.


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