IV Arts & SALT 2013 (con) Report

So remember in my last post where I said I should go to a Christian con in 2013? Funny how I mentioned that….

A week after I wrote that post, I learned about a consultation that the organization I work for, InterVarsity, was doing to help support their arts ministry. Any staff who either worked with art students, or who were artists themselves, were invited to attend. I’ll report on the consultation in a bit, but wanted to write about the couple of weeks before the consultation.

You see, before I went, I experienced the worst imposter syndrome ever. So much so that I nearly did not go.

Not that this was visible to anyone. I told people I was going and they were excited. My coworkers thought it was a perfect fit. My husband thought it would be a good way to nurture the writer side of me in a Christian setting. Everyone felt I should go to this. And the fact that hotel and meal expenses were paid, I would have been stupid not to go. But I struggled with it. I really did. I really, really did.

There were many reasons, but the main one I want to write about here as that up to that point, I saw genre writing as separate from, “Christian art”. Seriously, when have someone gotten up in church to read a page from Harry Potter during the sermon? Well, uh okay, nevermind, apparently I’m at the wrong church…but that’s besides the point. The point is, the Christian arts seem to only promote those that are done corporately.

I remember last year, I learned there was an Arts seminar thing being held at one of the churches around here. I thought it was cool…until I took a look at the actual workshops. They had panels for worship leaders. Ones for musicians. They had an art gallery for those who painted. For writing, they had a “drama category for writing skits to incorporate into worship”….

…and that was pretty much it.

And then there was last year, where my small group did a study of spiritual gifts. My gift came up as (duh) writing:

“How do you plan to use your gift?” asked the leader.

I said, “Well, I use it a lot when I’m writing stories. I tend to put in a lot of faith elements–”

“No, I mean, how do you plan to use it for the church?”

“……………”

When writing is incorporated into worship, it’s more along the lines of spoken word/poetry that had to refer to God. I remember back at Urbana 09, I read an excerpt from “She’s All Light” during the black lounge open mic. All the other acts were pretty much gospel songs/spoken word/rap that was pretty much psalms. A lot of people liked my reading, true, but still, it made me feel sort of weird, like my science fiction story was the oddball out.

From my experience, singing, playing instruments or performing in drama skits, all worship skills, are valued higher in the church than, well, writing stories. Wait, let me change that–writing speculative stories. Granted, I could write and/or edit church bulletins. Heck, I can even write drama skits if I wanted to. At best, I can write worship poetry, and that’s a whole different set of neuroses. I remember a long time back, before I’d started writing, when a worship leader at our church asked me and my friend to write spoken word pieces to read during worship (because this was an awesome church that had the creativity to do that). This was before I started professional writing, and I had very little experience with poetry, so I pulled some stuff together from a journal and threw in a bunch of “God make stars, made mountains, is awesome, blahblahblah” sentences. And then I read it straight, because, well, it was poetry. It was okay. On the next song, though, my friend came up and read hers. She did spoken word. With attitude. And it was awesome.

And at that point, I realized–I don’t have a gift for writing spoken word poetry. I deeply appreciate it, moreso now than I did back then, but it’s a different set of writing skills altogether.

Here’s the thing. I love stories. I love wrestling with deep truth in them. I love tales of growth, tales of woe, tales that would have you on the edge of your seat. Even my poetry are stories–just in a different format. Stories are my way of having deep conversations with people disguised as narrative. Plus, my characters get to do awesome stuff. I just had one of my main characters in Willow do a flip off the side of a building and nail a bad guy between the eyes with a knife.

That…probably won’t hold up too well if that’s read before a sermon.

I’ve come to terms that my writing life, at least the story part, and my church life, would be pretty much kept separate. Notice I didn’t say Christian life–I’ve have many good conversations in fandom with atheists, feminists, what the church would consider “secular”. I also am quite blessed to work at an religious organization that has as many geeks as it does, so I’m not hurting for that. It’s just that with the actual church, I pretty much have to check my writer side at the door. And that was one of the reasons why I really struggled with going to the IV Arts conference. If it was just going to be a bunch of worship leaders there talking about church stuff, then I didn’t belong.

But luckily, it wasn’t that.To go to the conference, you either had to be a staff worker who ministered to arts students, or you were a staff worker who was an artist.And that included writers. Even genre fiction writers.So I went.

The consultation was two days, and was a more like a Christian retreat, than a con. The third day was called SALT, and was more of a day seminar, where Christian student artists met on Wheaton campus to discuss being an artist and Christian at the same time. I got to meet many other artists–graphic artists, filmmakers, opera singers, tap dancers, harpists, small theater actors, costume designers—all who worked in Christian and secular settings. And I even got to connect with a student who drove up from Urbana because she had written several fantasy novels, but haven’t sent any out yet because she’s constantly revising them. And she had never been to a con before. At that point, I think I went supernova, I was so happy. I dare say this was the first time that my InterVarsity staffworker side and my writing side intersected.

Of course I told her about Wiscon and Viable Paradise. Who do you think I am?!

So in the end, I’m really, really glad I went. It was exactly what I needed. And I came away with my creative meter/spiritual meter refilled. And it got me rethinking the question how do I plan to use my writing for the church? Part of it may involve blogging more about my spiritual journey. As for the church, perhaps I shouldn’t be thinking in corporate worship terms but in relational terms. I happen to know there are a couple of fans who like to play RPGs. I could start up a gamer group at our church.

After all, if there was one takeaway I got from the conference, it was this: artists are bridges between the church world and the secular world. Evangelism works both ways.

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Edit: And it appears that the arts conference at that church I wrote about earlier is coming back again in April. Again, the workshops appear to be more worship oriented. Hmmm…should I go and represent anyway?

And before you say, “OHYOUSHOULDGOJARSOFCLAYWILLBE THERE”…um, I never was a fan of Jars of Clay. I heard their songs, and they’ve never really stuck with me, so, meh. And this does happen a week after Oddcon. I dunno…

LaShawn’s MetaPost for 2011 (So Far)

So, here it is, March, and I’m finally getting around to posting what I’ve been up to on the writing field. If you are friends with me on Facebook and/or Twitter, you already know what I’ve been doing and what’s been published. But I thought I do a metapost to clue things in for regulars at the Cafe, as well as give you the scoop on some upcoming projects I haven’t mentioned on the social networks yet.

January was a weird non-fiction month. About the second weekend of January, I got an email from the new non-fiction editor Fantasy Magazine, which I slush for, asking if I could write an article on short notice.  Like, in two days. And I would get paid. I’ve published non-fiction before, but this was the first time I’ve worked directly with an editor, in this case, Esther Inglis-Arkell. I had to crank out 1500 words of a first draft and relinquish it to Esther immediately instead of sitting on it for a couple of weeks while I thought out the revisions. Then I had to work with Esther in feeling our way through the edits until we were both satisfied with the end result. From the time I was first emailed to where I got the thumbs up on the finished draft, the whole process took less than a week. I don’t think I’ve ever finished anything so fast.

But I am pleased and honored to say that the article, “From Story to Screen”, a look at how stories are translated from book to screen, will be up at the newly revamped Fantasy Magazine site on March 28.

That crash course gained me achievements in working with an editor, so when the Christian organization I work for, InterVarsity, approached me on doing a Valentine Day’s article a week later, I was well prepared to crank that out. If you were ever curious on how my husband Jon and I met, you can check out “From Chapter to Chapel” which posted on Valentine’s Day weekend.

On top of those to articles, I also worked on a write-up of the panel I moderated at Wiscon last year: Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting in the Cafeteria which will appear in the Wiscon Chronicles #5 which will come out at this year’s Wiscon 35(which I’ll be at). And I did another movie review that came from winning last year’s Con or Bust Auction. When that one is completed, I’ll announce it here.

With all the non-fiction news, the same fiction side of things have been extremely slow, but ironically has me the most excited. The smaller side of the news is that I got another poem published. Marie Antoinette Ponders the Moon went live on February 20 and can be found at Every Day Poets. I’ve always been fascinated by Marie Antoinette; I’ve read her biographies, as well as that wonderful book Abundance by Sena Jeter Naslund (which I reviewed) and watching the anime Rose of Versailles. I wrote the poem after watching Marie Antoinette, a most awesome movie.

I’ve saved the best news, the SUPER AWESOME HAPPY HAPPY YEAH news for last. I’ve sold Future Perfect, which appeared in the March 2009 issue of Ideomancer, to the science fiction audio magazine Escape Pod to be read in a future podcast! How awesome is that? More details will be forthcoming once I get them, but as you can see, I am super, super excited. I’ve been an Escape Pod listener for as long as I can remember, as well as their sister podcast for fantasy Podcastle (I’m still working up the nerve to listen to their horror cast, Pseudopod). What this means is that you’ll get to download Future Perfect to your iPod, or whatever you listen to music, and hear it read by a professional voice actor.

So stay tuned to the Café! We’ll have more goodies coming up as they appear. And if you’re a reader of science fiction, if you are voting in the Nebulas or Hugos or even the Locus Awards, keep in mind that “She’s All Light at Daybreak Magazine is eligible for nomination for 2010. Happy voting!