Publishing

Want to Work in Traditional Publishing? Here are 4 Tips to Help!

There are two very common questions I get working in publishing. The top question is something along the lines of: I have a book idea, how do I get published? and second is How do I get into traditional publishing as a career? There are plenty of blogs, articles, and conferences that address the first one (maybe one day I’ll write my own), so I thought I would write a few thoughts on the second question!

The very quick version of how I got into publishing is this: I was working in another industry in marketing while also managing a very active book blog (when they were much more relevant). After a few years of blogging, I decided I wanted to really pursue publishing as a career. Over the course of about two years (applying to several positions every quarter), I eventually applied for the right position with WaterBrook/Penguin Random House and moved to Colorado Springs for a marketing position there!

So, don’t get discouraged if you don’t get a job right off the bat. It can be competitive, but there are also so many great opportunities! If you want to hear more about my experience, you can from my podcast interview on Ink & Soul here.

I hope at least one of these tips is helpful and good luck on your publishing career and journey! 

1. Sign up for any and all job alerts. Publishing Houses will often have alert sign-ups on their job boards. Create an account and set up alerts! I also encourage you to get to know the imprint and company you are applying for. What types of books do they publish? Have you read them? If you get the opportunity to interview, knowing the books they publish will only benefit you.

  • If you’re interested in Christian publishing, ECPA has a job board here.
  • Penguin Random House (and I’m sure other companies do too!) is always updating open job positions here.
  • Follow the publishing companies you’re interested in on social media and LinkedIn, as they’ll often post positions there.

2. Internships. If you are in a place to pursue an internship, this is an excellent way to gain experience in the publishing world. Many are paid as well, so a very much worthy path to pursue. If interested in what Penguin Random House has to offer, you can start here.

3. Make relationships. Much like this is important for authors, I think this is also important on the publishing end.

  • I want to highlight that these should be genuine ones. Comment, engage, and connect. When I was book blogging, I got to know publishing houses as brands, but also quite a few people who worked at the companies as well. I remember when I was getting ready for my interview for my job at WaterBrook, I was able to reach out to a publishing friend for some advice. We had a friendship for years at that point and I am still so thankful for her insight. Try to avoid jumping into DMs and asking for all the advice right after connecting on a social platform. I know so many of us in publishing would love to help all the time, but often these messages simply get lost in the chaos of the internet. 
  • Not sure where to start? Which publishing houses are you interested in? Are there employees who are active on social to follow? Penguin Random House employees will use #TeamPRH on personal accounts and social posts.

4. What are you doing that is publishing adjacent? If you are in an industry that isn’t publishing, you can still develop and gain experience in other ways that will show off your love of books. 

  • Have you been or are you a part of: Launch teams? Bookstagram? BookTok? Podcasts? Youtube? 
  • As I mentioned, I was in a completely different industry, but many skills crossed over and I was able to show my love of books and related marketing skills through my publishing adjacent work. 
  • Whatever you do, when done well, will catch the eyes of hiring managers.

I truly hope this is encouraging and will help! Feel free to drop any follow up questions in the comments. And if you’re a fellow publishing colleague, would love to hear from you as well!

Ink & Willow

New From Ink & Willow: Rise Up: A Coloring Book Celebrating Black Courage, Resilience, and Faith

It’s here! This is one of my passion projects from Ink & Willow this year. Just in time for Christmas!!

About Rise Up

This reflective and empowering coloring book for adults offers a celebration of Black voices, culture, and history, along with inspiration to stand boldly against injustice.

Rise Up invites you to draw strength, courage, and hope from a variety of inspiring quotes, including historical and contemporary Black voices, the Bible, and hymns. Throughout the book you’ll color beautifully designed illustrations that celebrate Black culture and experiences, all drawn by talented Black artists.

Features include:
    45 single-sided coloring pages in a large 9.75” x 9.75” (25x25cm) format
    High-quality bright white paper stock–thick enough to use pens, pencils, or markers without worrying about the color bleeding through.
    Perforated pages to easily pull out for coloring and framing. 
    Quotes from well-known voices like Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis, Maya Angelou, and Sojourner Truth; current leading antiracism educators and authors like Latasha Morrison and Jemar Tisby; Black spirituals and hymns; and Bible verses that uplift and encourage.
    A link to the “Rise Up” Spotify playlist featuring songs and hymns performed by Black musicians and artists
    The back of each page will feature the full quote and details on the historical context.

The fight for reconciliation and justice is long and weary. Find rest for your heart and revitalize your warrior soul as you color your way through the words of the witnesses who have gone before you.

Available at your favorite retailer! You can find the list here.

Ink & Willow

New Ink & Willow Release: THE DAILY BIBLE PROJECT

Another beautiful Ink and Willow product out in the world!! This was one I worked on closely and am so proud of what our whole I&W team created. I’m excited to start using it and recording all my thoughts, prayers, encouragements over the next three years!

Here’s a bit more about The Daily Bible Project:

For anyone looking to deepen their spiritual walk by reading through the Bible in a year, this keepsake journal offers a reading schedule with daily Scripture assignments and room to record three years’ worth of responses.

Derived from the popular Daily Question series, The Daily Bible Project follows the same three-year structure in this new keepsake journal. Instead of a prompt, however, each page offers a Scripture reading assignment for the day, along with brief journaling spaces to fill with your favorite verses or your own questions and revelations experienced while reading.

The daily reading plan is specially designed to keep you on track but not overwhelmed:
  The daily readings are chronological but include chapters from the Old and New Testaments.
  Each day’s reading prompt assigns roughly three chapters of Scripture.
  You’ll read through the entire Bible each year, for three years.
  Indicating just the Scripture reference, the journal can be used with any Bible translation or version.

With room for three years’ worth of responses, The Daily Bible Project offers a unique opportunity to track your spiritual growth and progress year over year.

Also, can’t take credit for these beautiful photos – credit to our PRH rockstar Danielle!

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | B.A.M | Christianbooks.com | IndieBound.com | Walmart

Love and Faith

Unmet Expectations Won’t Crush Us: Lessons From a Nearly 40 Year Old

In a week, I’m turning 39 and looking back, this decade has been an adventure. A move to another state, buying my first home, learning how to survive in a state that loves snow as much as I do not (I’m from Southern California, it’s in my blood to love warmth). It’s a different feeling from when I left my twenties, but I’m also excited for the next chapter. And because party planning is always fun, I’ve already started thinking about what I want to do for my 40th next year (mainly because I’m hoping it will include some kind of travel). 

This also got me thinking of the 40th birthday parties I remember when I was a kid, and I have one really important question…why did so many 40th birthday parties have “Over the Hill” themes??? Now that I’m on the cusp of 40 myself, I can’t help but laugh! I often wonder what they expected the other side of 40 to look like.  

We all have expectations, don’t we? While where I am today is not at all where I expected myself to be, I can say that I’m thankful that is the case, taking the good with the bad. No matter our age, we all have unmet expectations. It could be personal ones we set for ourselves or expectations we didn’t realize society (including the church) put there until we don’t meet them. 

When I was younger, I fully expected myself to pursue science and become a veterinarian. I’ve loved animals and biology from a young age (and still do), so that sense made to me and I planned for that. But as I got older and entered college, I quickly realized that I did not possess the same enthusiasm for other required studies in that field, particularly any kind of math or descriptive chemistry. But that in turn released me from a career expectation and gave me the freedom to pursue other passions and I ended up majoring in Journalism. 

Having gone to a Christian university, many young women expected to leave school with a fiancé or husband (and more often than not that was due to the pressure from church culture and expectations put on Christian woman) and left without one. There were also expectations many felt after finishing college, that their five-year and ten-year plans should be laid out perfectly. 

Some unmet expectations are easier to shrug off or even laugh off. But others aren’t so easy to ignore. Maybe it’s being a career you never wanted that only started out as “just to have a job.” Maybe it’s not being as fulfilled as you thought you would be in your marriage. Maybe it’s a close friendship that ended, causing deep pain. Maybe it’s a hurtful lack of support of your gifts and talents from those you trust. 

Maybe it’s unmet expectations in dating and what your marital status is. Maybe it’s the expectation of support from family and fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and instead seeing them push back the most. Maybe it’s an unexpected end of a marriage you thought would be forever. There are so many maybes and realities we each experience.

Whether each new year brings what I expected or what I didn’t, the truth and hope that has gotten me through all of it is Jesus and only Jesus. 

Seems like such a “simple” answer yet is everything. Through Christ alone I find my value. And when my worth is secure, I don’t have to let unmet expectations define me. In Psalm 139, we read:

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.” Psalm 139:13-15 (NIV)

Not only does the Lord know our inmost being, we are wonderfully made by Him. Not matter my unmet or met expectations, that truth is always there! And because my truth, my value, my everything is tied to Jesus, through all of life circumstances, I can always find hope and peace in Jesus.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 (NIV)

I have experienced the beautiful unexpected and learned it doesn’t complete me. I have also experienced the heartbreaking unexpected and learned that it also won’t crush me completely. 

May you also find peace in this truth today.

Travel Adventures

A Trip to Alabama for Juneteenth

Several months ago Penguin Random House announced that Juneteenth would be a recognized holiday and paid day off. With things finally opening up (especially museums) and 2020 trips waiting to be rebooked, I decided to re-book my trip down south for the long weekend. 

It was my first visit to Alabama and I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to see some of the key cities of the Civil Rights Museum.

One thing I was reminded of while walking through The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute is how with every victory for the Civil Rights Movement, the South pushed back HARD. Whether it was through terrorist attacks, lynchings, loophole laws, or simple disregard for Federal changes. 

I knew this already, but going through and seeing so many historical details was another stark reminder. I can’t help but think of what we’re seeing today with voter suppression again. So much work still to be done. 

I also didn’t know how much Fred Shuttlesworth (Pastor and activist) did for Birmingham and the movement. The postcard and statue that stands outside The Institute is him.

It’s also so jarring to see a Klan robe in person. I can’t help but think of who hide behind it, chose hatred, and lived such a sad life. It was donated to the museum anonymously, so makes me wonder what the story is. 

But the museum did a solid job looking at the ugly history (so we can learn from it), but also all the incredible people who worked nonstop to bring change. Amazing to read all the ways God used some many men and women to bring needed change. May we continue their work!

Next I headed out to Montgomery. Humidity was out and about on my second day, but I didn’t mind. I refuse to complain about the heat. I’m soaking up and storing up for later months :). Here’s some more details from the photos above:

1. The Rosa Parks Museum: One of the shorter museums, but really enjoyed the creative displays throughout. Lots to watch and read, but an excellent looks at the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

2. Some random downtown Montgomery art and sites.

3. The Dexter Parsonage: It was closed, but this is the restored parsonage of Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church that Dr. King Jr. and his family resided here during his pastorate from 1954-1960. The parsonage was bombed several times during the fight for civil rights, but fortunately no one was ever injured.

4. The Civil Rights Memorial: It was closed as well, but the front still had a beautiful fountain and memorial to see. 

While there is so much incredible history to see here, one of the main reasons I finally decided to head to Alabama is because of the Equal Justice Initiative started by Bryan Stevenson. If you follow me anywhere on the internet, you probably haven’t missed how often I talk about their work, Just Mercy, and Stevenson. 

“To overcome racial inequality, we must confront our history.” 

Such an incredibly powerful memorial – if you ever have the chance, please take time to visit. 

⁣Here’s what one of the Memorials reads: “It is impossible to give the number of negroes that have been killed. There is a great many missing that have not been heard from…The freed people have had all their arms taken away from them, and they are in the most deplorable condition of any people on earth. All that were living in the county by themselves, have been robbed of everything of the least value – even taking the under dressing of free women, their bed clothes; in a word every thing of the smallest value, and then driven from their homes into the woods. It is the most sickening sight I ever witnessed to see…” 

Freedman’s Bureau Correspondence

Hopkins County, Texas: July 17, 1868

“At this memorial, we remember the thousands killed, the generations of black people terrorized, and the legacy of suffering and injustice that haunts us still. We also remember the countless victims whose deaths were not recorded in the news archives and cannot be documented, who are recognized solely in the mournful memories of those who loved them. We believe that telling the truth about the age of racial terror and reflecting together on this period and its legacy can lead to a more thoughtful and informed commitment to justice today. We hope this memorial will inspire individuals, communities, and this nation to claim our difficult history and commit to a just and peaceful future.”  

This is a video I made after going through the Memorial. May we mourn, lament, honor, and remember. 

“If we have the courage and tenacity of our forebears, who stood firmly like a rock against the lash of slavery, we shall find a way to do for our day what they did for theirs.” Mary McLeod Bethune

Where The Legacy Museum and Equal Justice Initiative both now sit once served as one of the locations where they “warehoused” enslaved Black people. Now it’s dedicated to sharing important pieces of America’s history. So incredibly thankful for all the work Bryan Stevenson and Equal Justice Initiative has done and continues to do. 🖤 (Quote by Maya Angelou)

I hope on another trip down south, I’ll be able to see some more (like Selma).

Inklings

What to Buy For An Inklings Fan

(Welcome to Inklings Week 2021! You can find all the posts here. Be sure to also follow the International Inklings Instagram account here. Hope you enjoy!)

I have always said readers are the easiest people in the world to buy books for. Specific fandoms? Even more so. And because Tolkien and Lewis have been around for a minute or two, the options are, quite honestly, ENDLESS. 

So here we go: The perfect gift ideas for Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Lord of the Rings and Chronicles of Narnia fans! (Links below)

$25 and under

Reepicheep Sticker ($3.50) // LOTR Epic 1978 Cartoon (Starting at $3.99) // Narnia Cross Stitch Pattern ($5.00) // Turkish Delight ($8.00) // “Courage, Dear Heart” Print ($10.00) // Hobbiton Tea ($10.00) // “I Am Aslan” Print ($11.00) // Narnia Bracelet ($12.00) // LOTR Vintage Posters (Starting at $15.00) // Recipes from the World of Tolkien: Inspired by the Legends ($16.00) // Arwen’s Evenstar Necklace ($18.00) // Map of Narnia ($20.00) // Winter in Narnia Candle ($24.00) // “Aslan is on the move” Sign ($25.00) // The Shire Candle ($24.00)

$26.00 – $75.00 Range

LOTR Deluxe Boxed Set ($30.00) // Sting Letter Opener ($30.00) // “Speak Friend and Enter” Doormat ($40.00) // The Fellowship Bookends ($42.00) // The Two Towers Quote Wall Decor ($53.00) // Tolkien: Maker of Middle-Earth (Companion to the 2018-2019 exhibit) ($65.00)

$75+ (For those REALLY special occasions)

Beautiful Juniper Book Sets: The Hobbit ($50.00), The Chronicles of Narnia ($195.00), Tolkien’s Full Set (which includes The Silmarillion, the Trilogy, and The Hobbit) ($195.00), The Lord of the Rings Trio ($150.00) // Narnia Book Set and Audio Book Collection ($99.00) // Lord of the Rings Chess Set ($495.00)

I hope this list sparked a few ideas! And if your birthday coming up soon, then be sure to pass this post along as a not so subtle hint :). Do you have a favorite in this list or another? Be sure to share your favorite Tolkien/Lewis gift in the comments. We can always use more ideas!

Inklings

Where to Start with J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis: Guest Post by Wesley of Library Educated

(Welcome to Inklings Week 2021! You can find all the posts here. Be sure to also follow the International Inklings Instagram account here. Hope you enjoy!)

If you’re new to Jack and Tollers and aren’t sure which book to start with, Wesley of Library Educated has got you covered!

Happy Inklings Week everybody! If you’re new to the works of the Inklings crew (maybe you’ve seen some movies and now you want to read the source materials!) you might be thinking, “this is a fair amount of books, where do I start?” (I can relate dear reader, I’ve been having these thoughts about Graham Greene and John LeCarre for a long time, so if anyone has any advice on those two…) So I’ve made some suggestions about what books you could start with and a few books that would maybe be best to wait until you have a little more experience with the author.

Let’s start with C.S. Lewis!

Books to Start With:

Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe: Even if you have never read this book or seen the movie, I bet you would recognize some names and scenes just because it’s so engrained in pop culture. Four siblings in an unfamiliar country house stumble into a magical world that is in the grip of an evil queen but hope for the inhabitants is coming in the form of Aslan, a lion that isn’t safe, but he is good. Heroes, villains, a redemption arc that will make you cry, so buckle up. 

Screwtape Letters: Stop me if you’ve heard this one before – one rookie demon tempter and his old pro tempter demon uncle write letters back and forth to each other about the best way to tempt a human into a life that will lead him away from eternal salvation. I know from that description the book sounds a little dark but it’s poignant, funny (someone gets so upset they turn into a centipede, can you imagine being that mad?) and a confirmation that there is endless red tape and bureaucracy in hell, which makes PERFECT SENSE.

Out of the Silent Planet: The first of “The Space Trilogy” we follow a man who is drugged, kidnapped, and thrown into a spaceship as a sacrifice to creatures on a distant planet. (Fun fact, Lewis said he would write a space travel story and Tolkien would write a time travel story, but Tolkien never finished his). Turns out the creatures don’t actually want to eat our hero, and we are faced with the philosophical questions that are so popular in space travel: how do we relate to these previously unknown creatures? What is our obligation to each other? How do we live in peace?

Books to Wait On:

The Abolition of Man: It seems pretty obvious from this book that CS Lewis did not always have a good time in school. The book gets deep into the weeds about what things are needed to have a well rounded education and there are references to ancient philosophers (and not like, the big ones that you’ve heard of) and all sorts of other deep cut references. You can feel his passion, but it’s tough to get worked up about the English education system in the early 1900s. 

The Pilgrim’s Regress: Did you ever have to read Pilgrim’s Progress in school? It’s a book heavy with allegory and deeper meaning and you have to use your whole brain the whole time you’re reading it. Pilgrim’s Regress is C.S. Lewis’ version of the Milton classic. It’s a heavy read and it’s not really a representative example of Lewis’ writing.

Alright, on to J.R.R. Tolkien!

Books to Start with:

The Hobbit: Wizards! Adventures! Strong friendships! The threat of getting eaten! DRAGONS! (Well, just one but he’s a good one). The Hobbit is a beloved classic for generations for a reason. It’s a great place to get introduced to the Baggins clan, steadfast Gandalf and the amazing world of Middle Earth. A great place to dip your toe into this expansive universe.

The Children of Hurin: If you want to dip into Middle Earth, but don’t want a trilogy start here. It takes place 6,000 years before some rings gets a bunch of short guys into trouble during a long journey. An unlikely hero and his band rise to greatness in troubled times, but can they handle everything that will come their way?

Books to Wait On:

The Silmarillion: This book is no.joke. One of Tolkein’s last book to be published and one very near and dear to his heart, but it is not designed to be read like a traditional novel. If you put yourself in that mind set it will be an easier read. I know Jamie loves this one, but when we read it for Inklings book club I was on the struggle bus in a very real way!

The Return of the King: What I mean to say with this is – if you’re doing the Lord of the Rings trilogy you need to read them in order. It’s not like other series’ where the stories are loosely connected to each other and the characters are the same so you can read them willy nilly. Order is important with this trilogy!

What would you add to the list?

Inklings

The Tolkien Fandom Oral History Collection with Archivist William Fliss

(Welcome to Inklings Week 2021! You can find all the posts here. Be sure to also follow the International Inklings Instagram account here. Hope you enjoy!)

Back in 2019, I came across the call for fans of Tolkien for Marquette’s Oral History Project – an “effort to document Tolkien Fandom, the Department of Special Collections at Marquette’s Raynor Memorial Library is building a collection of brief testimonials from Tolkien fans.” Naturally I signed up immediately (you can listen to mine here). 

The project continues, with the goal of “6,000 audio interviews, one for each of the Riders of Rohan that Théoden mustered and led to the aid of Gondor.” The curator, William Fliss, was kind enough to join this year’s Inklings Week, sharing more about the project! If you’re a fellow fan, be sure to sign up! 

Thank you William for joining us! 

Archivist William Fliss

The Hobbit saved my life.”

“If Frodo and Sam can get to Mount Doom then I can handle what I’m dealing with.”

“The legendarium has been my star-glass, my light in dark places when all other lights go out.”

These words come from fans of the Inkling J. R. R. Tolkien, captured in a collection I am building in the Department of Special Collections and University Archives at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, called the Tolkien Fandom Oral History Collection. If you are a Tolkien fan, please consider contributing an interview!

Since 2012 I have served as curator for Marquette’s celebrated Tolkien Collection. It surprises many people to learn that Marquette University owns the original manuscripts for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, acquired directly from Professor Tolkien in 1957. These manuscripts are the heart of Marquette’s collection; however, over the decades Marquette has also sought to document the fandom that has sprung up around Tolkien and his works.  

This new oral history collection is one of my contributions to that effort. The concept is very simple. Tolkien fans of all ages and levels of intensity are invited to contribute a brief interview to Marquette. Each fan has up to 3 minutes in total to respond to 3 questions: (1) when did you first encounter the works of Tolkien? (2) why are you a fan? (3) what, if anything, has he meant to you?

Simple, right? Well, some people struggle mightily with the 3-minute limit, but it does force the fans to concentrate on what has been truly important to them in their relationship with Tolkien’s works.  Each audio recording and its accompanying transcript are uploaded to a digital collection on the library’s website where they can be enjoyed by other fans or studied by scholars of Fan Studies. (Yes, there is an actual academic field call Fan Studies, complete with its own peer-reviewed journals!)

The idea for this project sprang from the fact that Marquette is a pilgrimage site for Tolkien fans. Fans passing through Milwaukee often stop by the archives. We keep an exhibit of reproductions of selected manuscripts on display in our reading room. (Unavailable at present because of the pandemic.) After meeting many such fans and chatting with them about their experiences of Tolkien’s works, it dawned on me that if I wanted to document contemporary fandom, these are the voices I should be capturing.  

I have built the collection around the image of the Muster of Rohan from The Lord of the Rings. In that story, King Théoden gathers his riders from across the Riddermark and leads 6,000 of them on a desperate ride to lift the siege of Gondor. My goal is to gather interviews from 6,000 fans, one for each of the Rohirrim that rode to Gondor’s aid! I chose this number with my heart and not with my head. I realize now just how long it will take me to get there, so if you are reading this and love Tolkien, please consider contributing an interview.

I am building the collection gradually. Keeping with the spirit of the “Muster”, I group the interviews into éoreds of 120 fans, the éored being the basic unit of the Rohirrim. After an éored fills, I upload its interviews to the site and begin work on the next one. I am also assembling the interview text into a dataset that can be downloaded from Marquette’s institutional repository. My hope is that digital humanists will analyze the interviews and report on interesting patterns or commonalities across them.

I have collected over 600 interviews so far. My own study of them to date has been based on impressions rather than systematic analysis. Having listened to every interview more than once, I am struck by the number of people who came to Tolkien’s works through a parent or older sibling; and I marvel at how many of these fans have introduced their own children to the works or intend to do so in the future. This gives me great confidence that Tolkien will remain a popular author for generations to come.

I am also impressed by how much Tolkien has meant in people’s lives, especially his role in helping people overcome hardship. As the quotations above indicate, fans turn to Tolkien for strength and comfort in hard times. It can be grieving the loss of a loved one, overcoming addictions or disabilities, struggling with depression, enduring bullying, wrestling with despair—you name it—people have found in Tolkien’s works the hope to persevere.

If you are interested in learning more about the collection, I will be giving a presentation called “Forth now, and fear no darkness!”: Reflections on the Tolkien Fandom Oral History Project at Marquette University at the Digital Moot hosted by the wonderful Prancing Pony Podcast.

Please consider contributing an interview. All fans are welcome!

Inklings

Still Chasing the Inklings: Guest Post by Katherine Reay

(Welcome to Inklings Week 2021! You can find all the posts here. Be sure to also follow the International Inklings Instagram account here. Hope you enjoy!)

It’s always a delight to have award winning author Katherine Reay join us for Inklings Week! And be sure to pre-order her fall novel, The London House – it looks amazing!

When sitting down to write this post, I thought about all the academic approaches I might take about this remarkable literary group, citing the importance of camaraderie, creative discussions, intellectual freedom, and friendship.

Yet my enduring love and my “chase” after them is far more personal — and that’s what I want to share. Two particular Inklings — C.S. Lewis and and J.R.R Tolkien — have become, over the years, my creative, intellectual and spiritual anchors. Years ago I read that C.S. Lewis credited George MacDonald with “baptizing his imagination” and G.K. Chesterton for baptizing his intellect. That’s what Tolkien and Lewis did for me, baptizing both imagination and intellect together. Tolkien gave me the stars (that indescribable magic within a story) and Lewis — my favorite Inkling — taught me, and is still teaching me, how to navigate them. 

While C.S. Lewis penned incredibly rich stories, he didn’t create the all-encompassing aura Tolkien offered. Lewis’s stories carry you along like an arrow, leading you somewhere great. He had a very defined purpose for each word within each story, and he often kept that purpose his little secret. He rarely revealed his point, his message, his meaning — the crystalline truth he wanted to impart — but it was always there. Lewis masterfully left finding that “deeper magic” to the reader as he wrapped it into a powerful and imaginative story. 

It is that “deeper magic” that draws me back as a reader and pulls at me when writing. I too want to lay down a theme just below the surface that invites the reader in and hints at something more. I can’t claim to have captured it by any means, but I do chase it. 

Today I’d like to peel back the curtain on my latest C.S. Lewis inspired attempts to bring a bit of “deeper magic” to the page… 

For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity. 

This simple line from Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters grabbed my imagination and formed the foundation for my novel, The Printed Letter Bookshop. In the story, readers follow three women at varying stages in life, each dealing with her own journey and challenges, but all finding themselves thrown together in a struggling bookstore. Surrounded by mistakes, mishaps, and a budding friendships, these women slowly learn that their pasts do not define them and their futures are not immutably fixed. They learn, as Lewis points out in The Screwtape Letters, that life can only be truly lived, experienced, and savored — in the present. 

To “show” that on a different level, readers will notice that each woman tells her story from a different point-of-view. One shares in third person, as if she has stepped away from her own life and is a mere observer of the happenings around her. The second woman writes in past-tense as she has formed her present on a faulty foundation and, in many ways, is stuck in those assumptions and mistakes. Although the final woman shares her story in present-tense, she does so for all the wrong reasons — out of fear because her past is too painful and her future holds no hope. 

So, while The Printed Letter Bookshop, is a collective journey of women friendship and the joy of books, it is also a pointer to the idea that living in the past (that long-ago time when all seemed perfect) or imagining a too distant future (one in which you finally realize your goals) can only trip us and keep us from the real life, love, and blessings of our now — our present. 

In my next book, I returned to Lewis again — as I always do — but not for a perspective on time, but simply for perspective. For The London House, which will publish in November, I delved into his famous Mere Christianity. We know it as a book, but my WWII character Caroline Waite experiences it as a series of fifteen-minute BBC radio talks given between 1941 and 1944. 

Lewis was invited on air to talk to the British people and boost their morale during the fearsome days of WWII. Caroline listens to the first talk, originally titled “Common Decency”, which aired on August 6, 1941. It was his profound insight into human nature delivered within that talk that opened for me the well-spring beneath The London House — the conflict between perception and truth, sacrifice and safety, secrets and lies, all during a time when it must have felt the world was ending. 

Today I have shared about Lewis’s influence on my thoughts and writings — my chase for the “deeper magic.” But the chase doesn’t end there — the Inklings themselves possessed a “deeper magic”that would be powerful if found today among a group of readers, writers, and friends. Warren Lewis described it best: “Properly speaking, the Inklings was neither a club nor a literary society, though it partook of the nature of both. There were no rules, officers, agenda, or formal elections.” Again — it was camaraderie, creative discussions, intellectual freedom, and friendship. All things well worth chasing! 

Thank you for spending a moment with me here today and I hope you enjoy all the posts and fun this week offers.

All the best to you, 

Katherine