In 1911, perhaps still hung over from the fumes of the Industrial Revolution or simply doubling down, Frederick Wilson Taylor penned The Principles of Scientific Management. "In the past, man has been first," Taylor said, "in the future the system must be first." Frederick believed that the system made the person, not a person the system.

I'll leave it to you to decide what you think of Frederick's assertion. I'll only say that there's no system I've found that can make my boys embrace their manhood or that can fuel tender love in my heart for my wife. No efficiency regimen I know of tells a friend "happy birthday, I'm glad you were born." The General System is not going to shut down sex trafficking in Bangladesh or Atlanta. Each of these requires a woman or man with heart and soul, a person of courage and character.

Contrast Frederick's musings with the recent PBS documentary on the Amish. Watching this piece carried me back to my childhood when we'd travel once or twice a year to Nappanee, Indiana, to have work done on our portable house. We lived in a forty-foot travel trailer, and the factory was in Amish country. We'd visit Amish Acres and stuff ourselves with family-style old world food. Amish Acres is not an actual Amish business, but rather, something like the Disneyland of Amish culture (an irony beyond measure). Still, we enjoyed it, as well as the Mennonite donut shop. I mainly loved all the black buggies and the posts for tying up the horses around town. To a kid who always imagined himself smack in the middle of a Western movie, it didn't get much better.

It would be a mistake to think of the Amish as simply Luddites who idyllically resist modern advancements. Rather, the Amish have made many of their lifestyle choices because of their guiding commitment to being a people who live in community. When grappling with cultural change and new technology, they wrangle with this question: how will this adaptation impact our community? They don't allow phones in their homes – not because they believe Satan arrives via electrical wires but because they believe that once they get accustomed to calling their neighbors on a device from their kitchen, they'll eventually stop dropping by to see their neighbor for a chat in the kitchen. If they need to talk to their friend, they have this odd hunch that it's best done face-to-face.

Amish don't use mammoth, gas-powered farm equipment because they want to depend on their neighbors, not a machine, come harvest time. The Amish don't own cars – not because they believe that hell arrives on wheels (they can ride in a car, they just can't own one) but because they believe that once their life conforms to traveling distances further than a buggy can carry them, they'll begin to work in far-flung towns. Eventually their family and communities will scatter. As one Amish man said, "If you want to love God — and live simply and close to the land — and if you want to live within 20 miles of your family your whole life, being Amish is a good way to do that."

I'm obviously not Amish. I couldn't be. It's not my life or story, not to mention the embarrassing fact that I'm completely incapable of growing facial hair for something as amazing as those Amish beards. But I admire the Amish. I admire their rooted sense of life and land and place. And I think Frederick Wilson Taylor was a doofus. 

 

I was a foolish, foolish boy. Miska and I had been dating plenty long to be at the point where a fellow needs to put up or shut up. Embarrassed as I am to admit it, I was in the grip of a selfish line of thinking: "There are billions of women in this world, and I've only met a couple thousand. Who's to say I won't someday, somewhere, meet someone better for me…?"

Who's to say… as if love comes announced from some external authority. Someone better… as if love takes shape by probability calculations.

Of course, I was to say. Love does not arrive at that final moment when, having all possible options closed and the edict unequivocally delivered, we finally limp to the altar and declare, after rummaging through every single alley, yes – you. Love leads the way. Love charges in. Love names the truth and then leaps after it. Love comes as a tender surprise, but then it asks us to surrender our mind, body and soul. Love knows nothing of the penchant for playing the numbers and hedging our bets. Love doesn't tamp down the danger; love sets the fire.

But my love hesitated because of fear. Fear of what I didn't know. Fear that I might be wrong. Fear of what I might discover later. Fear that new information or experiences might alter the truth I perceived. That fear, rational as it may have been, kept me from loving the one woman right in front of me, this mysterious, exquisite woman. I was a boy who had yet to become a man. I had yet to give myself to the glorious terror of love.

Love is the center of the universe. God's love for the world, God's love revealed in Jesus Christ. To be loved (and to love in return) requires risk. We hear God's call in Jesus; and we say yes – or we don't. Love will wait for us. Love will whisper to us and, at times, ravage us. However, love – if we'll have it – requires that we lay our cards on the table. Love will require that we leave behind our adolescent machinations and step into mature love, love that lays down self-protection and walks into the beauty and joy that only comes along the way, not before. There will always be other possibilities, a thousand reasons not to love. We might be wrong, we might. But God, in love, invites us to come and see. To take the risk and come and see.

In my young years, I held a naive conviction that I would marry someone I couldn't possibly live without. Now, I don't know what that even means. However, that posture selfishly offered me a kind of perceived safety that comes from absolutist certainty. It would require nothing of me other than the ability to see the obvious. It was a numbskull's vision of love. I discovered, however, that the true question was not can I live without Miska?, but do I want to live without Miska? That second question swelled with danger, but the answer I could not contain was no, god help me, no. And with that, I embraced the peril of love. And I became a man.

Personal knowledge is impossible without risk; it cannot begin without an act of trust, and trust can be betrayed. We are here facing a fundamental decision in which we have to risk everything we have. There are no insurance policies available. {Lesslie Newbigen}

The boys and I were trapped in the car. We crept toward the red light that flashed green only for a nanosecond, ruefully congratulating the two or three vehicles that made it past while mocking the rest of us strung-out in the agonizing row. The boys were in the finest of moods, and by the finest of moods I mean the sort where every word (every. single. word.) ignites a small land war. I despise traffic, and the boys' fighting is, to my soul, like that chalkboard thing, the one with the nails and the scratching. The whole setup was lovely.

Given this perfect storm, I lost my cool. I may or may not have uttered the word "bitching" during my fatherly attempt to explain to my boys their delightful behavior. As part of my exemplary dad moment, I rashly decreed that they were banned from the Puffle Party. Certainly you don't know what such a thing as a Puffle Party might be, and I'm not much better informed. It's an online game of some sort and yesterday, March 15th, was the magical day when the entire Puffle world as we know it was set to metamorphose, or so I'm told. "It's a once in a lifetime event, dad," Wyatt cried amid contorted moans befitting the apocalypse or water boarding but surely not a missed Puffle Party.

I let the moment pass, and after finally maneuvering through that blasted red light, we eventually made it home. Everyone was sad and quiet. These are the moments when we parents wonder what it is exactly we're doing, how we got here and how to pull it back together. I played my part, but these boys don't have any halos hovering over their heads. They were awful. Double awful. Do you tow the line and make them pay the piper? Do you veto the judgment and risk bad precedents? Heck if I know.

I do know this, though. I'm a bit of a softy. And I always hope to err toward mercy and crazy love, if it's even possible to err on such things. You should check out a Puffle Party, it's wild in there.

As (perhaps) the concluding house-warming gift for my new digs, my pal Nathan Elmore wrapped these words up for me.

 

Apparently the notion that we use 10% of our possible brain function is a widely perpetuated myth—the certifiable stuff of urban legend, according to the neurologists and neuroscientists. Nevertheless, I have no doubt that my mind contains merely 10% of its available aptitude for conscious associations when it comes to this one very diminutive thing: the chili pepper that goes by the name jalapeno.

As a general rule, I really don’t care for warm, burning sensations that bounce around in the mouth using/abusing their totalitarian reign to persecute me, a plebian to be sure. Yes, true, I’m also a weakling about handling such sensations. So I don’t typically invite the jalapeno over for breakfast, lunch or dinner. It is, in fact, very un-welcome and un-affirmed in the places where I eat.

By virtue of this unyielding intolerance, I can only pull, or download, two associations for the pepper which originally hails from the Mexican city of Xalapa. Sadly, that is all I’ve got in this ostensibly vast cerebrum: two prominent associations. And Winn Collier is the second.

The first involves an 83-year-old son of a Cumberland homesteader in Crossville, Tennessee.

Joseph (Joe) Elmore, my grandfather on my father’s side, is—as far as I know—one of the only men the world over who drives a red minivan and keeps a Styrofoam cup in it for the express purpose of tobacco-spitting. It sounds relatively hipster cool, but trust me the view from the passenger seat borders on nauseating. Then, of course, there’s his driving.

A man of multiple heart-attack scares, our beloved Grandpa Joe—“you ain’t no kind of man if you ain’t got land” (O Brother, Where Art Thou?)—still cultivates an extensive vegetable garden on his five-acre lot on Backwoods Way in Crossville. The street was officially renamed Backwoods Way (it wasn’t born with that name) by the residents themselves to suit perfectly the basic sensibility of the place. Socrates himself would be quite proud: the renaming was a quintessential example of Know thyself.

In matters of religion and faith, Grandpa Joe is undeniably a straight-shooter—a fundamentalist Christian whose cassette-tape collection of hellfire preachers is as impressive as his ability to steer any conversation into an apocalyptic scenario for Anglo culture in America. In other less significant matters, he is anything but a straight-shooter. For instance, when Wal-Mart arrived in Crossville, he suddenly became rather fond of saying that he was on his way to meet up with so-and-so at the Wal-Marts. Like R.E.M.’s song about comedian Andy Kaufman, you are always left to wonder if this guy has something up his sleeve—even if it involves seemingly unwittingly adding an “s” to the name of an exceptionally familiar big-box retailer.

One day, several years back, Grandpa Joe’s word-play games ventured into another stratosphere. In attempting to describe a food he had tried recently, he casually dropped the word jalapeno. No one could have predicted his un-careful pronunciation: jap-a-leno. An incredible slip of his rural tongue or an extremely sly joke, he had all of us in absolute stitches for days. He also had managed to offend both the Hispanic community and the Japanese community in one motion—a weirdly impressive feat. To this day, this singular verbal moment by Grandpa Joe is re-told as a legendary folktale in holiday family gatherings.

My other jalapeno association involves a much younger fellow, a guy who would become a close friend and genuine colleague at a university church in dear old Clemson, S.C.

He is a preacher, to be sure, but with no proclivity for giving or receiving hellfire sermons. He also is a very fine writer who, in his own words, suspects that truth—not just a good joke—“is best told slant.” Here it must be said: No one likes a jalapeno quite like Winn. And no one asks for jalapenos to be added (at no additional charge!) to their grilled chicken salad quite like Winn.

It didn’t matter in the least if you were a national chain named for a Beatles song (Ruby Tuesdays along S.C. Route 123), a university “dive” phoning it in with passable pub grub (Tiger Town Tavern on College Avenue), or an international mom-and-pop joint serving adequate Mediterranean fare (Riviera Restaurant on Old Greenville Highway). Winn was, and is, and is to come, no respecter of asking the burning question: Do you happen to have any jalapenos?

All serious kidding aside, the jalapeno inquiry, metaphorically speaking, could stand in for any number of spicy, flavorful questions that Winn is in the habit of asking. He has made it his life’s existential manner—not to mention the impetus of his spiritual writing, and now, his doctoral studies—to ask. And those of us who know him and read him are very much drawn into the orbit of this unique manner. Furthermore, and further-more, we are drawn in the direction toward which this manner is spinning.

After giving us a glimpse into his geographically wandered youth, Winn writes in his mini-bio: “Years later, I would discover how hungry I am to experience people and place and story.” This indeed seems the insatiable hunger lurking within, around and through my friend’s often-compelling words and ever-thoughtful questions—his manner, yes. I, for one, continue to be thoroughly engaged.

Upon the occasion of Winn’s newly designed website, then, perhaps it is no surprise that I could not help but remember one small but evocative intersection of people, place and story—an experienced moment, or series of culinary moments, when I, too, was made hungrier for precisely such things. To tell the tale, one word should suffice: jalapenos.

 

Nathan F. Elmore writes at: nathanfelmore.com.

A couple mornings a week, during my morning jog, I meet the motherly trio: two pregnant women, with their capri pants and floppy sun hats, accompanied by the matron of the bunch. They have babies in their belly and babies in the two strollers they're pushing. By the look of things, they won't have much sleep or sanity until somewhere around 2026. They are aglow, though. They greet me with smiles. They're far cheerier than I am, though that may have something to do with the fact that at the point I encounter them, I've just topped a grueling climb up the Hill of Retribution. I've given the Hill (the one with the mother of all inclines) this name because with each plodding, grinding step, it seems I'm atoning for some past sin.

But the happy pregnant women with their cute floppy hats walk the neighborhood and engage in lively conversation. They are spry and joyful, and they always greet me with a warm hello. If I were pregnant (and a woman, which I guess would be necessary), I'd want to be their friend.

Today, after we greeted and passed, I heard one of the pooch-bellied women say, "Whatever your body feels good doing, you should do." The words weren't intended for me (or anyone like me, I understand), but I received them.

There is an attentiveness to body and soul and space that creates an open-handed, leisurely way of being present in our world. Most of us are concerned with narcissism and nihilistic consumption. I get it. However, that's not attentiveness. Rather, that's a manic-like failure to tune into the truth in you and the people around you. When we are attuned to our yearnings and our rhythms, to our tears and our pleasures, to those places (and people) who either drain or infuse life – then we have wisdom about the path to follow and the path to avoid.

Miska has encouraged me to create a violence-free zone around my heart, a place where I refused to do injury to myself by the words I receive or the lies I believe. This is good wisdom. Some of us cling fiercely to the ways we've screwed it up – or might screw it up. We playback the conversations. We relive our mistakes. We see the badness in us, but we refuse to take in the beauty. If this is you, then take words from an effervescent pregnant woman, lugging a stroller down the street while carrying a small watermelon in her tummy: Pay attention to what feels good

Follow what's good and leave the rest behind.

Turtle has just one plan
at a time, and every cell
buys into it

                  {Kooser and Harrison}

This morning, I grabbed Miska tight and wished her happy anniversary. We've been married 5,280 days. We've navigated rough waters. We've know love's rapture but also love's weight. We've had to fight for one another, to keep reaching through the haze and disappointment. We've had to resist hiding — and other times we've had to pull the other out of hiding. It's not lost on me that 5,280 is the number of feet in a mile. Our marriage has walked a mile now. A slow and steady road, one foot in front of the other. 5,280 times. 

And with each step, the one thing is love. We've taken our cue from the turtle.

I believe that most things in life, things worth anything at least, require this steady plodding. I can't say who I'll be or where I'll be a decade from now, but I'll find myself getting there after a mile of steps. As I give myself to each step, I'll find that moment — that very moment, not one future or one past — containing life, the life that is now, the life that the entire mile previous has led me to. I want to give myself, every cell, to that moment. To that person walking with me.

 

The most beautiful stories always start with wreckage. {Jack London}

Jonah is the strangest character. Any notion of the noble prophet thundering God's message evaporates as soon as our story begins. The book of Jonah, whatever else it might be, is a comedy. Jonah stands as a blight on the prophetic lineage. I imagine Elisha, Jeremiah or Elijah at the gatherings of the guild, raising motions to have Jonah's credentials revoked. We know Jonah's story so well because of his failure, because of his resistance. Because he ran. Those three days in the fish's belly were the marks of disaster, not triumph.

Yet most often, we read the foibles of our favorite Biblical characters as if their prime purpose is to cajole us to do better. We should not run like the prophet. We should not deny like Peter. We should not doubt like Thomas. We should not surrender to sexual escapades like David or Solomon or so many, many others. We should not grumble like Israel or be a total disaster like those Corinthians who are to this day the poster children for all that can go wrong in the church.

In other words, we often read the Bible as if it's attempting to tell us that we should be better than almost every character found in its pages. Put that way, it's nearly impossible to say (at least with a straight face) that I'll have any better luck. ;

However, the Bible's first intent is not to provide morals (though it provides some along the way). Rather, the Bible narrates a story. In this story (as with any good story), there is good and evil, hope and ruin, love lost and love found. In this story, God engages humanity. God loves. And God wishes for us to love in return. As we all know, however, love is nothing if not messy. Love takes circuitous paths. Love requires risk. ;

Apparently, love required God to hurl a ferocious wind at a ship while a prophet slumbered (in soul and body) amid the cargo stashed deep in the bowels. This storm threatening to splinter the ship and drown them all was a strange mercy. It was God engaging Jonah on Jonah's terms. If Jonah wanted to run, then he could run. God would not stop him; but God, with all the fury of love, would meet Jonah on the open waters.

As Jacques Ellul said, "God's action is infinitely…subtle and complex. God is personally involved in the drama. He is not just the omnipotent God doing as he wills in heaven and earth. [God] stoops to man's loftiness. As he wrestled with Jacob at the ford of Jabbok, so he wrestles as an equal with Jonah."

It's too small a narrative to think that God merely wants us to do better. God desires to gather up the scattered pieces of our wreckage and pull them back together, creating a new and beautiful story.

Miska and I have a running joke that if I were ever to go completely unhinged and do something stupid like have an affair, I'd manage to keep it under wraps for about 19 seconds. When guilt hits, I go blabbing. When I was in second grade, I went running to my mom, in tears, confessing the evil I'd done. "What happened, Winn?" my mom asked. "I cursed," I answered. "I said upchuck." How my mom held back the laughter, I'll never know.

Recently, Miska, in a strange turn of conversation, was forced to cough up that she had snooped around to find out what gifts I had bought her last Christmas. She logged into my email. She poked around my Amazon account. She didn't happen upon her information; she executed MI5 style tactics. I'm surprised she didn't waterboard the boys to make them talk. I like surprises, so I was irritated by her admission. More, though, I was impressed. Given my psyche, I can't fathom engaging in that chicanery and then just tooling along as if nothing happened. 

My confessive compulsion is a bit much. However, the act of confession, of saying the truth about something, is an immense gift. We tend to think of "confessing our sins" as necessary bookkeeping, knocking off a litany of all our inappropriate behavior so that God will then knock these same items off his list of things to smack us for. Confession, I believe, is closer to the moment when I stop playing coy with Miska and admit I really crave her touch. Or when Seth falls flat on the hard ground, spread eagle with his face smashed into pavement — then amid tears and pain makes it plain he wants nothing but his dad to gather him up and hold him tight. Of course, there's nothing I want in that moment more than to rush to his side and pour love over his hurt.

In Scripture, confessing our sins is simply the way of speaking the truth to God so that we can stop living in the far away corner and get on receiving love. Confessing our sins isn't the point. Forgiveness is the point. Love and friendship is the point. Living the good life – that's the thing God's working in all this. Lent is the season of clearing the air, of confessing what is, the season of getting on with the good life.

Confession is about healing that pours into our cracked places, our alone places. Confession is about coming clean with the fact that, left to our lonesome, we are lost – but also owning the fact that we dare to long for much, much more. To confess is to say the truth about ourselves and our place and our desire. Confessing how we've trespassed the commandments is a humbling thing. Confessing how we've abandoned good and true desires — that's a terrifying thing.

Orthodox priests speak this prayer after private confession:

May God who pardoned David through Nathan the prophet when he confessed his sins, and Peter weeping bitterly for his denial, and the sinful woman weeping at his feet, and the publican and the prodigal son, may the same God forgive you all things, through me a sinner, both in this world and in the world to come, and set you uncondemned before his terrible Judgment seat. Having no further care for the sin which you have confessed, depart in peace.

Clear the air. Say it clean. Then depart, without a care. In peace.

I don't know much about my genealogy. I wish our kin had one of those large cracked leather Bibles with a family tree printed in the front, the kind that goes back seven or eight generations. I know that on my mother's side, if you trace far enough, we'd find our way to a Cherokee Indian Chief. Our family name was Lightfoot. When I'm feeling low about my station in life, I remember I'm Cherokee royalty. On my dad's side, there's Scottish blood. I don't know how my ancestors arrived here – or why. But perhaps this explains my enduring love of the Scottish brogue, Sean Connery and kilts.

There's a fellow in the local outdoor gear shop who wears a red, black and green kilt to work. He has long, black hair tied in a man-tail. He's got the leather boots and the lean, muscular frame to go with it. I keep expecting to find him with an axe slung over his shoulder. It's quite an experience to see a fellow in a skirt and think he's the manliest thing you've seen in a long while. I've never owned a kilt or an axe, but I'm happy to say that those who do are my people.

The stories that have led us to this life, this land, are not merely biographical detail. They are the threads that have weaved us into being. We belong to a history. We didn't create it. We didn't choose it. Yet here we are, chosen and crafted by a story that was before us, a story that has invited us in.

This is what the church's creeds offer. The Apostles' Creed is a story. If we read the Creed first as a list of theological facts, we may get the gist, but we'll entirely miss the juice. The Creed is the story of God and God's action for us, toward us. The Creed narrates the drama, tugs us through love and ruin, through hell and back. And with each movement, the story reminds us of our history and reminds us of who we are, lest we forget. We are the ones loved by God, loved so much that God refuses to forget us. This story has chosen us. This story has made us. If it tells us anything at all, the Creed tells us we are part of a history and a people: God's history, God's people. We are not (and never have been) alone.

And the Creed is also a prayer; it ends with amen. Good stories are always a sort of prayer. They carry us through all the beauty and the rubble to the place of truth. When a good story has worked it's way in us, we have little to say except Amen. May it be so

I've asked a few friends to stop by for a house-warming party in my new digs. Corban Addison has just released his first novel A Walk Across the Sun, set in India and following several characters intersection with the seedy world of human trafficking. The book's catching steam; it's been pushed by John Grisham and Oprah's O Magazine. In a flat world where we demand everything be efficient and have obvious (and immediate) utilitarian purpose, many of us insist that the work itself offers goodness to the world – writing need not be justified by accomplishing some other purpose or added agenda. However, sometimes we ride that mule too far, to the point that our writing becomes selfish and myopic. In Corban's debut novel, he has written something that takes the story seriously, on its own terms – but he also has a message he wants to give away. This is not easy to do. 

This part of the party's going to be a conversation around the table.

 

Why writing, Corban? Why do you find yourself needing to tell stories? 

Since I was fifteen years old and starting to spread my wings in an adult world, writing has been my outlet, the preferred channel for my thoughts. When I was a kid, I used to write essays and reflections on anything and everything, work on them tirelessly until I felt I had perfected every word, and then stuff them away in a file on my computer, never to be read by anyone. At the same time, I read voraciously and preferred fiction. Story was a form of travel for me. It peeled back the skin of the world and gave me a glimpse of humanity as it looks under the hood. I've always been conscious of truth, and I've always loved to learn. Long before I ever thought about the power of story, I responded to that power by devouring stories and allowing them to frame my vision of the world. At some point, these two currents (my impulse to write and to consume stories) merged into a singular dream: to write a story. As soon as I tried my hand at it, I fell in love with it. And away I went, down the Rabbit Hole. For years I wrote stories as I had written essays, spending countless hours refining them, only to learn that no one wanted to publish them. But the dream only grew stronger as the pile of rejections mounted. That was a training ground. I learned how to write by trying and failing and trying again. All along I believed I would find a story with wings. Ironically, when it happened, it was the story that found me. The idea for A Walk Across the Sun was my wife's before it was mine.

You've written a good story that also has something of an agenda – you want people to think long and hard at the issue of sex trafficking, hoping to contribute to another abolition of slavery. Did you think much about the interplay between letting the story be the driver and letting the issue be the driver?

When I set out to write A Walk Across the Sun, I knew it would never work unless it could stand alone as a compelling work of fiction. The story had to sing, or it would flop. That said, my objective in writing a novel about the global trade in human beings was to confront the reader with a reality that many people find hard to believe. I wanted to do more than describe the problem. I wanted to give readers a first-class trip through the trafficking pipeline. I wanted to reveal the many dimensions of the trade and to leave readers with the strong sense that all is not lost, that hope is real and that all of us can engage in the fight for justice. Bringing the two strands together was a labor of love and editing. There were times in early drafts of the manuscript where I fell into the didactic trap, overplaying my hand as an advocate. Eventually, however, with the help of some fine editors, I was able to submerge the facts about trafficking into the narrative, leaving the story to drive the book and allowing the issue to emerge organically in the consciousness of the reader through the experience of reading the story.

Colum McCann says, "I believe fiction can capture the moment when the thorn enters the skin." Where do those words take you?

Story has been around as long as communication itself. It transcends every barrier that divides us as human beings, and it compels us in a way that nothing else can. In a very real sense, story is the universal language. In my mind, the reason for this is simple. Story is the framework of our existence. All of us are living a story, so all of us are interested in stories. What makes fiction such a powerful medium is that it allows the writer to transport the reader to places within a particular story that would be missed in a purely factual account. There are moments in life that have profound significance, yet the clock doesn't slow down to allow us to dissect them, ponder them, suck the marrow from their bones, and live inside the transformation. In fiction, the clock can slow down or speed up. One scene, one moment, can occupy pages or a single sentence. A story can open a window on the world that does not exist in the four dimensions of space-time. There is great irony in this: Fiction offers perspectives on reality that reality itself cannot afford.

This year, I'm feeling tugged into new places of generosity, as a man, a dad and husband, a writer and pastor. I'm going to give you a prompt; just tell me whatever comes to your mind. Here goes: write with generosity

One of the saddest facts of modern art is the all-too-common divorce between the artist and the audience. So many artists these days pride themselves on creating art for themselves, not for the people who will view it, read it, and ponder it. To me, writing generously is writing with the audience in mind–not in a disembodied sense, but in a very real, very particular sense. When I was writing A Walk Across the Sun, I wanted to create a story that would reach the broadest possible audience, from the seventeen-year-old girl who spends her afternoons devouring books to the eighty-year-old grandmother who puts down her knitting and picks up a novel. In crafting the plot and the characters, I made very intentional choices about what I would include and what I would not include, how I would describe certain things, especially difficult things like sexual violence and the trafficking of children. I knew that my readers would be real people, and I wanted to meet them in the reality of their lives and give them a story they would love and a story that would open their eyes to the world around them in a new way. 

image: daily progress