May 20, 2009

The Quaker Blog Reader meets the FGC Gathering

Thanks for the suggestions and comments about a possible title for the upcoming Quaker blog reader. I've got news!

First of all, I'm very close to settling on a title. It's based on an earlier suggestion, with one change:

    Writing Cheerfully on the Web: A Quaker Blog Reader.

I've got to make a decision about the title in the next few days.


Quaker author and fellow blogger Brent Bill has agreed to write a short preface! There are not enough "Thank thee's" in plain speech to express my gratitude. I am humbled that he said yes. (Thanks again, Brent!)

And that's not all.

My goal is to have the Quaker blog reader available by June 23 and hopefully about a week earlier. It would initially be available through, and whenever that time is, you all will be among the first to know! The price is up in the air, though, since I don't have a page count yet... but the page count is quickly approaching 200 or more. The Quaker blogosphere has generated a lot of good reading!

And the final bit of news:

FGC and I have been working to arrange for a session at the Gathering for me to introduce and talk about the Quaker blog reader! If any of you will be at the Gathering this summer, please pencil in 4:30-5:30 on Monday, June 29 and join me as a presenter. I'd love to have some company talk about blogs, the book, the Convergent conversation... (I don't know that anyone has proposed an interest group--I know that I haven't!) Any and all of you are welcome, or encourage someone from your meeting who is attending the Gathering to look for this session. Keep in mind: This isn't quite firm--much of it depends on having copies of the book on site!--but my sense is it will be a go, God willing and I don't get ahead of my Guide...

The hope is that QuakerBooks of FGC will also sell the Quaker blog reader, since they already sell Martin's Quaker Ranter Reader. Woo-hoo!

Thanks to everyone for your support.

And blessed be to the One who seems to have had me in Its care all this time.


May 14, 2009

Wanted: Ideas for title for Quaker blog reader

A short post to inspire and get inspired: I'm starting to configure the various sections of the Quaker blog reader that I've been editing, with support from Chris M.

It's exciting to see the chapters start to organize themselves and to see what were once originally online blog posts being transformed into what look more and more like pages from a book!

I look at the various sections that I have in my spreadsheet of blog posts. They include Worship & Ministry; A Friendly Look at Christianity, Jesus, and the Bible; Convergent Friends; Love as a Testimony; Reclaiming and Reexamining Our Practices; That of God; and Openings and Personal Story. By far, the longest section is on reclaiming and reexamining our practices, so that might be broken down further as I get into organizing those posts.

It's a relief to see progress being made, believe me!

From time to time, I step away from the computer and the typesetting and the copying-and-pasting, and I begin to consider what This Thing wants to be called, other than "the Quaker blog reader."

Here are some of my own thoughts:

Found! Quaker Renewal Across The Branches

Reclaiming And Reexamining Our Quaker Faith And Practice

Love, Convergence, and Renewal Among Friends in the 21st Century
Or, is "Quaker Blog Reader" enough?

What I really want, though, is to know what title or words would catch your attention for such a book? It's likely the final title--or any tag line under it--will be a criss-cross between what's offered, but I'm awfully tired of thinking through this on my own right now.

Thanks in advance for any suggestions!


May 6, 2009

My version of pacifism

A few months ago, FGC's Youth Ministries Committee asked me to write about Quakers and pacifism. The Quaker Youth blog is doing a series along the lines of a written form of Quaker Quest, and they've recently posted the short pieces by three Quakers, including yours truly.

What follows below is a cross-post of what I wrote for the Quaker Youth blog, with some links added.


. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

If you were to look at my Quaker resumé, you'd notice a huge gap in it: No peace marches. No war-tax resistance. Not even a bumper sticker on my car. But then, one week before this short essay was due, I read about preparations for the 13th annual Day of Silence that students across the U.S. observe. It's a way to send a message that bullying, harassing, ridiculing, and assaulting fellow students based on their gender identity or sexual orientation, real or perceived, is NOT okay.

The night before the Day of Silence, I feel that familiar *tweak* that tells me I have to participate somehow out of solidarity with the students. I print a few quarter-sheet handouts to explain why I won't be talking, and I mentally prepare myself for the day to come. I worry about the inconveniences I'll encounter in the grocery store, on mass transit, in restaurants.

That morning, almost immediately, I become aware of my own hurt and shame of having been ridiculed by classmates when I was in middle school and high school. My own voice back then had been shut out and I never did anything about it.

At lunch, I buy a cup of soup and hand my small sheet of paper to the cashier, explaining why I'm not speaking. The cashier takes a dollar off my meal. I feel awkward in being given an unwarranted discount, but I choose to keep the silence. For the rest of the day, I live with not knowing what the cashier thought of me. I leave another of my handouts on the table for whoever sits there next.

At the organization where I volunteer, I smile and return the warm greetings of "Hello-how-are-you?" by handing the staff my piece of paper. Two women will later seek me out and tell me they appreciate what I am doing. One of them will tell me her son is also observing the Day of Silence at school and she wants to know more about it.

My brand of witness is a personal one. My brand of pacifism is a personal witness that starts from an inward change and grows out of a motion of love, dignity, and care for all involved. The smallest act of pacifism, even if it is carried out among kind souls and supportive friends, is important to do because I may be called on to carry out something even larger.

Even if it's inconvenient.

May 1, 2009

Additional progress on the Quaker blog reader

Hello, Friendly readers.

Just about a week ago, I wrote about all the activities I was pursuing. Item #4 of my "maxxed out" list focused on the progress of the Quaker blog reader I've begun pulling together.

A few folks have been asking how it's been going, so here's a more thorough update about where that particular project stands.

1. Use of the word "convergent" in the title. In my "maxxed out" post, I mention that I'm inclined to steer away from using the word "convergent" in the title of the book. (Maybe it will appear in a "tag line" or subtitle, though.)

As I'm nearing the end of looking at dozens and dozens of individual blog posts, the inclination to avoid having "convergent" front and center has grown. Convergent is much too narrow a word to capture all the topics and each of the bloggers whose work will be included. Even I myself don't identify as a Convergent Friend or a convergent blogger, though I certainly have been a part of the conversation over the years.

That said, if in the end readers find themselves with a new understanding about the nature of the Religious Society of Friends as a whole, or if readers come away with a sense of having been exposed to a depth of Quakerism that they hadn't known before, I think the publication will have served its purpose, convergent or not.

2. Phrases and words that have cropped up. I've been struck by the ideas and concepts that bloggers and readers have shared about how to describe what the online conversation is bringing about. They've described it in the online survey*, during phone conversations, in emails, and through my own quiet and busy times. *I'm no longer collecting survey responses, fyi.

Some examples of what I've come across:

  • Contemporary conversations across the Quaker branches

  • Fresh writing opening vistas of thought

  • Blowing on the embers

  • A rigorous, vibrant Quakerism

  • A group of people yearning for Quaker renewal

  • Emerging renewal movement that gathers us together despite previously divergent traditions

  • Negotiating identities and having a place at the table

3. Major topics that emerged from the online survey. The online survey tool Survey Monkey automatically compiles and analyzes data when people have to rank a series of items, such as in degrees of importance. Based on the dozens of responses I received, the major "important" topics of interest that the survey identified are these:
  • Personal story and experience

  • Worship and vocal ministry

  • Centrality of a Divine Principle

  • Practices and traditions

4. Major sections that seem to be taking shape. As I began identifying which of the recommended blog posts are likely to be included, I simultaneously began placing them in very broad categories or sections--what may amount to chapters in the book. Thus far the sections, which thankfully have some overlap with what I've listed above, are:
  • Worship and ministry

  • That of God

  • Love is the first motion

  • Convergent Quakerism

  • Reclaiming and re-examining our practices

  • A Friendly look at Christianity, Jesus, and the Bible

  • Openings and personal experiences

The thing I am currently taking mental note of is that three of these sections are particularly large, and that will either require a number of blog posts to be cut (not my preferred choice) or the large sections will have to be divided again, along related sub-themes. Not a bad problem to have, though.

5. Upcoming work and challenges. It's not clear to me what, if anything, will have to happen to reconcile #3 and #4 above.

But one thing is particularly clear to me: Even though Scripture and the place of Jesus in Quakerism were not identified as high in importance as some of the other topics within the survey, some of the significant exchanges that occurred online, at interest groups, and during meet-ups indeed revolved around this topic. As I'm working on this project, I feel like I have a responsibility to strike a balance between offering what the reader seeks or wants and offering what the reader--and the wider Religious Society of Friends--might wrestle with and grow from.

Gosh, that sounds presumptuous as I re-read that last sentence. What I mean is, if what we read affirms what we already believe or know, that has its own merits, but so many times it seems we are brought closer to God and to God's kin(g)dom when we are given new Light, thanks to reaching beyond ourselves and connecting with others who also hold some Truth for us to consider.

I doubt I'll get the balance right, between what readers want and what we as a faith community need to hear as Friends--how can I, with so many blog posts to consider and so many potential readers across the branches of Friends?--but it feels good for me to be wrestling with the material in both fresh and familiar ways.

6. The next big steps. I have plans to send out a "Friendly Agreement" very soon, laying out expectations like who holds the copyright of the included blog posts (the individual blogger who wrote them) and how a request for reprints might come about (if the first print run is bought up in a hurry, or if a journal wants to print a particular blog-essay from the book).

And I've begun looking into online tools for self-publishing. That's the scariest, most overwhelming part of all, I think.

One Friend who works in publishing had suggested I look into Xlibris--and I just found out that they require 90-120 days from receipt of the manuscript (i.e. pdf file) to carrying out the print run. Given the timeframe I've been working under, to have this book available at the 2009 FGC Gathering, that is not going to fly at all.

I've been looking at and at They both have their advantages and disadvantages. I'd love to hear from anyone who has experience with either of these. Or maybe there's another online tool that can be recommended. If that's the case, I hope you'll recommend it soooon.

I love the fact that Blurb seems particularly geared for Mac users and can turn a blog into a book (!), but I've read reviews that say their print quality, especially for text, doesn't live up to Lulu's. But Lulu doesn't seem to be as Mac friendly and seems to have more "legalese" to deal with...

I'm running out of time and will have to make a decision soon. I'll also have to decide on details like typeface, cover, sales price... I don't expect to make money on this project, not at all. But if ever there is more money made by book sales that I myself put into the project, I'd like to put the "excess" towards a Quaker blogging meet-up of some sort. Who knows where the Living Spirit might lead us...

Thanks to everyone for the support and encouragement you've given me in recent months. Your participation with the survey was so helpful, but it's been the four or five years of conversation online that truly have helped grow me into the Friend I am today.