June 1, 2009

Writing Cheerfully On The Web... very soon

UPDATE, 18 November 2009: Order directly from me. You'll still pay for the book and shipping, but it gives us a reason to connect person to person and I can write an inscription if you wish. You can send me an email to lizopp AT gmail DOT com.

UPDATE, 17 July 2009: QuakerBooks now has the book available on its website. Click here.

UPDATE, 9 July 2009: Feel free to call QuakerBooks to place an order: 1-800-966-4556. Toll free call within the U.S.

For about two weeks, I've been able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. For the past ten days or so, it hasn't looked like the light has been getting any closer. *big sigh*

Maybe today was the breakthrough: no additional glaring typos to fix edit; no weird footer or page-break screw-ups. And I've ordered a "proof" of the book, because this time I think I'm that close.

So I thought I'd share a few more specifics here on The Good Raised Up about the upcoming book. (Are folks tired yet about hearing about this? I know my partner is, and I'm eager to SHOW and not TELL, one of these days....)

1. The title will be Writing Cheerfully On The Web: A Quaker Blog Reader.

2. It will be about 270 pages. Quite a bit more than the 150 or so I was first imagining!

3. It includes the writing of 32 Friends across the Quaker spectrum in more than 50 essays. It doesn't include the writing of all the Friends I wanted it to, for a variety of reasons. I find I'm suffering a bit of "editor's guilt," despite my feeling clear for having selected what I did.

4. Sections include:

  • Ministry & Worship
  • That Of God
  • Reclaiming And Re-examining Our Traditions
  • Convergent Friends
  • A Friendly Look At Christianity, Jesus, And The Bible
  • Openings And Personal Story
  • Love As A Testimony
There also will be an index of blog URLs for blog-posts that are included, as well as a "selected and very incomplete" bibliography.

5. My hope is that the organization of the sections and the sequence of essays within each section will allow readers who are less familiar with the Quaker blogosphere to have the opportunity to make a journey similar to our own: seeing topics repeated (and not necessarily in a section of the same topic); seeing one blogger mention another blogger who later writes a piece that holds the reader's interest; and resonating with at least some of the ideas they come across.

Thanks to everyone who completed the survey over the winter (that was an enormous help!) and to all those, far and wide, who have offered words of encouragement. I hope that the next time I post something here about the book, it will be to announce that it's finally here, but if the last weeks have taught me anything, I know now not to promise that that'll be my next news.

For the moment, though, I thought I'd share the Introduction that, God willing, will appear in the opening pages of Writing Cheerfully On The Web.


UPDATE: Here is a list of the bloggers who are represented in the book:
    Richard Accetta-Evans Micah Bales N. Jeanne Burns Cat Chapin-Bishop Barry Crossno Forrest Curo C. Wess Daniels Martin Kelley Kody Gabriel Hersh Gregg Koskela Paul Landskroener Heather M. Madrone Pam Marguerite (Burrows) Johan Maurer Richard B. Miller Chris Mohr Robin Mohr Anna Elizabeth Obermayer Liz Oppenheimer Claire Reddy Kevin Roberts Shawna Roberts Aj Schwanz Peggy Senger Parsons Will Taber Peterson Toscano Timothy Travis Ashley M. Wilcox Daniel Wilcox Mark Wutka Alice MorningStar Yaxley Angela York Crane

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


When I first heard the words “blog” and “blogging,” I immediately was made uncomfortable by the sound of them. I had the feeling I was being asked to try some exotic drink that had flavors and spices I had never had before, like a mixture of mango, yogurt, and cardamom. Developing a taste for something completely foreign, like developing a willingness to explore new technology, requires ten to fifteen exposures to it before one ultimately either accepts or rejects it.

So it was that my introduction to blogging first began in my home and then expanded into seeing and hearing the word “blog” used in the media. Additional exposure to the new concept came out of a conversation with an early blog-adopter Quaker friend and ultimately fledged into the blog I now maintain for my Quaker writing.

When I first entered the world of these online, semi-interactive web-logs – out of which comes the contraction “blog” – there were only a handful of active Quaker ones. The blog writers weren’t from my own monthly or yearly meeting, so even if they were saying the very same things that local Friends had been saying all along, I heard these new voices with fresh ears. Sometimes God needs to find new messengers in order for us to hear God’s message.

Also, the blog writers were from across the spectrum of the Religious Society of Friends, though I didn’t know that until I was already captured by the spirit, warmth, and Truth that I found in their writing. As a Friend with Liberal roots and Conservative leanings, the stereotypes I had swallowed whole – about Evangelical Friends, programmed meetings, and Quaker pastors – had been shattered in a matter of days after I began reading Quaker blogs.

As unpredictable as God can be sometimes, the anonymity of the Internet allowed me to peer behind the electronic curtain and get a glimpse of who was serving up those spiritually exotic messages. When I saw who they were, I wanted to spend time with them, not just at their blog’s website but at their kitchen tables and in their living rooms.

Ultimately, the online conversation that was started through blogs has grown to the point where there have been conferences, workshops, meet-ups, and interest groups, all focused on our peculiar faith tradition and the practice of it. Friendships from across the schisms are mending our historical rifts, if only one blog post at a time. More of us are coming to understand who we are, not as a monthly or yearly meeting, not as British, Australian, or American Quakers, but as the Religious Society of Friends.

It’s a bit like having a sudden interest in exploring the family tree – not necessarily tracking the ancestors who generations ago settled the homestead, but rather searching for the extended family members and distant cousins who are here-and-now, living half a country or more away, and we’ve just now discovered we come from the same tree and have the same root. The world of Quaker blogs has helped a number of us learn more about our Quaker extended family.

There’s another motive for this Quaker blog reader. In recent years, different Friends have repeated a few questions:

  • I’ve heard that there’s a movement among Friends called “Convergence” but that it’s only online. Is that true and what is it?

  • How can I get my worship group involved in discussing some of the major threads that have emerged on the Internet without requiring everyone to read all the Quaker blogs that are out there?

  • Is there any way for non-web users to be a part of the conversation that’s been happening online?

  • Hopefully, this book will help Friends address these questions. An online class for college students is one thing, but a book group allows for a different sort of community-based learning.

    Now: the Internet moves information so quickly between an event and its participants that I want to add a few words about the disadvantages of placing somewhat-flash-in-the-pan blog posts into everlasting typeface.

    Blogging is both interactive and contemplative, especially among Friends. For the most part, we Quaker bloggers engage in a serious amount of online listening to each other as well as wrestling with the topics we encounter. We are unusually intentional with our online responses to one another, whether leaving a comment or raising a challenge.

    Subsequently, as we have read the comments and the insights of other bloggers, we have considered the Light and Truth they have brought us.

    God’s speaking to us through one another’s blogs changes us.

    But the writing that is included here in this book has not changed since its original appearance on the Internet. A blog post written in 2006 may not accurately present the current understanding or view of the same blogger today, but it does represent the measure of Light that was available to the blogger at the time.

    For some of us, writing a blog is a hobby, an avocation, and most bloggers write as they wish and as they are led. For others of us, the blog is an expression of part of the ministry we’ve been given. A few bloggers have been appointed care-and-accountability committees, and a few others have invited Friends to serve as blog elders to provide guidance and help with discernment as needed.

    Blog posts, and consequently the writings contained in this book, are like the messages that arise out of open worship. Some will add to the deepening and enrichment of the worship experience. Others will bring us up out of it a bit, but both experiences perhaps give us a large or small kernel of Truth to reflect on more thoroughly later. Not everything will speak to our condition, at least not right away, and perhaps never at all, but some of it undoubtedly will.

    Sometimes the Quaker world of blogs has been thought of as a "conversation." For those who are less familiar with the Internet, blogs allow online readers to add their own reflections and questions in a section dedicated to comments. The comments on a blog in turn will often generate more comments, either by other readers or by the original blog writer who often responds to the comments offered.

    I tell you this because that dynamic of conversation is removed from this book. Only the blog posts and none of the comments are included. That leaves you and perhaps others in your local faith community to begin your own conversation:

  • In what ways does a particular post not only speak to your condition but shed new Light for your understanding of Quakerism?

  • Where do you disagree with the blogger? What gets under your skin and why?

  • What about this particular post helps you rethink what you had thought about another branch of the Quaker family tree?

  • Which parts of the book feed you and which parts leave you hungering for more?

  • What wouldst thou say, were thee to blog?

  • Ultimately, the volume you hold in your hands is an indicator of how a particular cohort of Quakers have gone about the business of grappling with and exploring the Quaker faith tradition, including investing in it and embracing it as our own.

    These writings, and the conversations they inspire, reflect the extent to which we are ready to engage in a rigorous and vibrant Quakerism.

    – Liz Oppenheimer, Minneapolis
    Fifth Month 2009

    Full disclosure: I didn’t want to be solely responsible for selecting which, if any, posts of my own should be included, so I asked for – and pretty closely abided by – the recommendations made by a blogging Friend, who has helped me in any number of ways as the project got underway.


    Mary Ellen said...

    Liz, I've been following this book journey mostly on Facebook postings, but reading your introduction here makes me really excited about what you are doing. Good luck with this - I hope people respond and that this book opens up doorways / pathways / hearts.

    Mark Wutka said...

    Yay Liz! I'm glad you seem to be over most of your hurdles now! I can't wait to see the finished book!
    With love,

    Aimee said...

    What a beautiful introduction!

    Anonymous said...

    Thanks Liz

    Robin M. said...

    Oh Liz, I'm not tired of hearing about it, but then I'm not living with it as moment to moment as your partner is. This sounds wonderful. I'm a little nervous about having the posts appear without the comments, but it would have been way too long with them, so I'm sure it's a good choice. And the comments are mostly still online, where people could find them if they wanted to. Keep up the good work!

    Liz Opp said...

    Thanks to all of you, each of you, who have taken the time to comment here. "It's so close, I can taste it!"

    The choice to exclude comments was an easy one: I can't imagine the process I would have needed to go through to track down EACH commenter and ask for permission to include their comments!

    There were a number of decisions that needed to be made, and usually the discerning question for me was, "Is this question important enough to await an answer and hold up the production of the book...?" Sometimes the answer to that question did come up as Yes. Many times, the answer came back No.

    I'm starting to think I should publish a pamphlet called "Lulu's Making Me Just That," which would include tips on how to navigate Lulu.

    But I think instead, I'll just take a much needed break from the process and await the "test books" I've ordered to see how they turn out.


    Priscilla Oppenheimer said...

    I like the introduction. You are such a good writer. I can't wait to see the book. Congratulations on it!

    Hystery said...

    Your work is a blessing to many. Thank you for bringing together so many worthy writers (and so many very dear to me as people as well!)