Author Interview – Gordon C. Stewart – “Be Still!: Departure from Collective Madness” (Poetic Theological Essays on Politics, Pop Culture, Economy and Much More)

Howdy folks.

So happy that you could make it to through to Friday, our favourite day of the week, in one piece 🙂

For tonight’s author interview extravaganza, let me introduce to you all my good friend, theologian and author Gordon C. Stewart, as he regales us with his writing experiences, his engagingly witty collection of essays blended together in a volume for our reading pleasure and what ultimately influences his writing thoughts and processes.

Enjoy the show and have a fantastic weekend packed full of fun, food, drinks and frolics galore, thanks for reading 🙂

 

Hi there Gordon, thank you for joining us to discuss your written works, writing experiences, passions and influences.

Let’s start with debut anthology “Be Still!: Departure from Collective Madness”, a collection of poetic essays based on a variety of topics such as politics, economy and popular culture to name a few. Can you elaborate more on the themes themselves inherent in this collection, the purposes behind them and the directions that they go in order to capture our attention.

Some of “Be Still!”s essays have aired on Minnesota Public Radio’s “All things Considered” program or had been published in print as social commentaries written for the general public in response to a current news event –- the environmental horror of the explosion of Deep Water Horizon, the public execution of Troy Davis in Georgia, a terrorist attack, etc..

I didn’t realize what was different about them until MPR’s Eric Ringham wrote in “Be Still!”’s Foreword that “Gordon knows something about writing commentaries that most people of faith do not, that is, how to be inclusive in addressing an audience that may hold some other faith, or no faith at all. He writes from a Christian perspective, but not to a Christian perspective. He writes to everybody” (p. .x).

Maybe what’s different about “Be Still!” is less the author’s Christian faith than it is the analytical philosophical lens through which I see the world. Esther Swenson, my college philosophy professor, and her mentor, the Dutch philosopher of religion Willem Zuurdeeg, author of An Analytical Philosophy of Religion and Man Before Chaos: Philosophy Is Born in a Cry, taught me to look and listen for the hidden convictions that determine how we mortals make our ways in a chaotic world. Beneath the respective faiths we profess lie the deeper “convictions” that grasp us and appear to us as beyond question. When they are challenged and begin to shake, we come unglued.

One of those convictions is exceptionalism –- both the myth of it and the horror that it sets loose in the world of global politics, race, gender, culture, economics. “Be Still!” is dedicated to Kosuke (“Ko”) Koyama, the Japanese theologian who said over lunch late in his life that he had come to the conclusion that there is only one sin: exceptionalism. “Be Still!” looks at life through a camera lens ground from the influences of Esther Swenson, Willem Zuurdeeg, and theologian Paul Tillich who defined faith as that which concerns us ultimately; William Stringfellow, author of Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land, and Koyama himself, author of Water Buffalo Theology and Three Mile an Hour God.

Be Still

How difficult was it to get a publisher for your book and what were the timeframes involved with the process?

I started by shooting for the moon with a major publisher who declined but was encouraging, and steered me to Wipf and Stock Publishers with a recommendation to go with it. Although the first publisher said positive things about my work, it was, nevertheless, a rejection. I don’t like rejection! It took two years before I gained the confidence to submit to Wipf and Stock.

Why did you choose Wipf and Stock Publishers as your own publisher? What qualities stood out for you to select them?

Wipf and Stock has published or re-published authors who have influenced my thinking: Walter Brueggemann, William Stringfellow, and others. It made me happy to think of myself under their banner with these old mentors.

What are your own opinions on self-publishing and how come you did not choose to go down this particular route yourself?

When Anne Lamott said recently that, if she were starting over again now, she might self-publish, my head did a 360. I felt like Regan (Linda Blair) in “The Exorcist”! I know writers who have self-published and have great respect for their work but am still possessed by the old-school demon.

How important do you feel it is to have an Agent represent your work?

I feel it’s important, if you can get an agent to take on your work. I didn’t have one for “Be Still!” But I do have a publicist, Bob Todd of Bob Todd Publicity, who agreed to take me on after the book was published. But a publicist is different from a literary agent.
Having an agent from the beginning relieves you of the stress of what most authors detest – self-promotion! To use a baseball metaphor, “we’re better at catching than pitching.” We catch whatever the world throws at us and do our best to frame it into a strike. Having an agent leaves the “pitching” to publishers who are better salespeople.
Now that “Be Still” is born and has received strong endorsements and five-star reviews, I will go to the effort of finding an agent for my next three books.

What do you find the most difficult thing about writing? And what do you find the easiest?

Writing comes naturally to me at this point in life. I think through my fingers. The writing is not hard. It either comes or it doesn’t. What’s hardest is deciding what’s worth sharing.

Publishing is another matter – the process, the revisions, and all the steps along the way to publication. That’s a pain in the neck! Or worse. Preparing an index for “Be Still!” ended up affecting my health. It’s a tedious challenge that requires periodic breaks – walks, time at the gym, getting physically away from sitting for long spells poring over text eight hours a day for three weeks. Now I wish I’d taken my wife’s advice.

Who are some of the authors and historical figures that inspire you?

In addition to those noted earlier – Esther Swenson, Willem Zuurdeeg, Paul Tillich, and Kosuke Koyama – I’d have to say my father and mother were the chief unheralded “historical figures” in my life. They introduced me to Jesus, and the Hebrew prophets Isaiah, Amos, Micah, and Jeremiah who remain my daily bread.

Etched in my memory is Edward R. Murrow who stopped Joseph McCarthy in his tracks, and Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. of the civil rights movement. in college I fell in love with the writings of the New England Transcendentalists, and with Franz Kafka who remains to this day my favorite author. Josef Hromadka, the Czech theologian who left a secure teaching position at Princeton Seminary to return home to Czechoslovakia to pave the way for Christian-Marxist dialogue, became an example I aspired to emulate. Peace activist theologians William Sloane Coffin, William Stringfellow, Paul Louis Lehmann, and Robert McAfee Brown all influenced me, But, in the end, it was my father and mother whose faith inspired me to meet the world with eyes wide open with an inner security that the world could not take away.

Man Before Chaos

What sort of research did you do to write the essays in your book?

Because the essays of “Be Still!” flowed from my soul through my fingertips, often in response to something in the news that day, the essays themselves did not call for research. The research came in finding the right quotations (epigrams) to head each essay – a poem or short quotation. Six of those quotations took no effort, since my friend and colleague on “Views from the Edge” Steve Shoemaker was a prolific poet. Steve died of cancer a year ago but his poetry lives on in “Be Still!” and also the book he published before he died, A Sin a Week: Fifty-two Sins Are Described Here in Loving Detail for Folks With the Inclination and Ability to Do Wrong, but Who Have Run Out of Bad Ideas.

Why do you write? What inspired you to become a writer?

Why I write is easy. Writing is how what’s inside of me gets out. When it gets out there, I can see it, “get it”, critique it, reflect on why and how I’m led to say what I end up saying, and whether I agree with myself!

My high school English teacher, Mrs. Semar, would be both surprised but thrilled that the spit-ball thrower in the back of the class took her teaching so seriously.

What inspired me to become a writer? I never thought of myself as a writer until after years as a preacher in the pulpit led me to realize that’s what I was doing. My colleagues and I were taught to be manuscript preachers. You always went into the pulpit with a carefully prepared manuscript – the fruit of that week’s labor wrestling with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other. Homiletics (preaching) in my Reformed theological tradition is a discipline in writing.

In 1973, The Christian Century published “Worship and Resistance: the Exercise of Freedom,” a sermon I had preached at Gunnison Memorial Chapel of St. Lawrence University that brought wider attention to the case of Martin Ramirez Sostre, a resistant political prisoner held in solitary confinement at Dannemora, NY. That was a turning point toward believing my writing might have an influence on public life. Two year later New York Governor Carey commuted Martin’s sentence and released him from prison.

What keeps you motivated during creative slumps? How do you deal with Writers Block?

Ouch! That’s a tough one. I don’t know. I’m either motivated or I’m not. I guess I’ve learned to wait. If it’s not there, it’s not there. And when it’s not, something else is happening inside this weird soul of mine. It always comes back. If I’m not dead, I’m still writing, only inside.

You have access to a time machine. What advice would you give to your younger self?

Read the classics. Read the great books. Learn history. Don’t waste your time reading lesser authors. Read Homer. Read Chaucer. Read Dostoyevsky. Take your evening bath with the Lake Poets, or with Emily Dickinson, Matthew Arnold, or Carl Sandburg. But I’d give myself permission to wake up and have breakfast with Anne Lamott, Maya Angelou, or Mary Oliver.

Complete Emily Dickinson

How do you spend your free time when you are not writing?

Enjoying the member of our household who belongs to a more loving species, Barclay, our four-year old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, who licks our faces every morning and loves nothing more than playing ball. When not playing ball with Barclay, I watch baseball in the summer.

Tell us more about your upcoming projects. Are you working on anything specific or have plans in the pipeline?

Glad you asked! A second collection of essays with the working title “Don’t Be Weary, Traveller” is nearing submission. The social context is the same as “Be Still!”’s only magnified ten times by the collective madness before and after the 2016 presidential election. We are weary and growing wearier with every news report. Weary travellers need to stop, rest, and eat something to keep them on their way to something better.

But the real love of my life right now is a woman named Marguerite, a novella that’s been writing itself over the last three years. When Marguerite is ready to meet the world, she will do so with a literary agent. Though she’s very humble, she’s very quirky, and she thinks enough of herself that she promises me she’ll make the NYT Best Sellers’ list.

Finally, are there any nuggets of wisdom that you can impart to other aspiring writers?

Just write. Write. Write. Don’t worry about an audience. A publisher will ask “Who’s your audience?” Forget your audience. Consider yourself your audience and go from there. Just let what’s inside of you come out to meet you. Then, if you think it’s worth meeting someone else, find the venues to share it.

My publishing life began seriously on a whim. I wrote a piece after hearing news on “All Things Considered” of the horrible Amish school shooting tragedy at Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania in October 2006. I looked on Minnesota Public Radio’s website, saw a “submit here” tab, and, within 24 hours, was taping “Jacob Miller’s Amish Rocking Chair” in an MPR recording booth. If there’s a lesson there, it might be this: pay close attention to yourself, pay close attention to the world; then, see what happens when you think out loud through your fingers.

And that’s a wrap! Thank you for enlightening us about your writing and for giving us a great time doing so, we look forward to enjoying your stories for many more moons to come 🙂

Bio:-

Gordon Stewart

Gordon Stewart is a public theologian whose publishing on faith and culture took flight with a guest commentary aired on Minnesota Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” focused on Amish grace following the 2006 Amish school massacre at Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. His sermons had been published previously by The Christian Century (“Worship and Resistance: the Exercise of Freedom”), Harper & Row’s Best Sermons 1 (“Jesus and the Woman at the Well”) and Best Sermons 2 (“An Idea Whose Time Has Come”).

An ordained minister of the Presbyterian Church USA), he has served ecumenical campus ministries in Wisconsin, New York, and Ohio, and Presbyterian churches in Decatur, IL; Wooster, OH; Cincinnati, OH, and Minneapolis and Chaska, MN. Gordon’s essays have been published by Minnesota Public Radio, MinnPost.com, Star Tribune, Presbyterian Outlook, Sojourners’ “God’s Politics: Blogging with Jim Wallace and Friends,” and “Views from the Edge (gordoncstewart.com)”, among others. Currenlty working on collection of essays (“Don’t Be Weary, Traveller”) and a novella (“The Story of Marguerite”), Gordon. He writes most day on “Views from the Edge”.

He and his wife, Kay, write from Chaska, Minnesota where their Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Barclay, helps keep their noses to the ground.

You can connect with him via the following Social Media channels:-

Facebook:- Gordon C. Stewart – Author (FB)
LinkedIn:- Gordon C. Stewart – Author/writer/public theologian (LinkedIn)
Twitter:- @gordoncstewart (Twitter)
Website:- Views from the Edge – The Website & Blog of Author/writer/public theologian Gordon C. Stewart

You can buy his books here:-

Buy Gordon C. Stewart’s books in Canada

Buy Gordon C. Stewart’s books in the UK/Europe

Buy Gordon C. Stewart’s books in the US/Rest of the World

If you too would like to be interviewed on my blog at TooFullToWrite and you have a book or a series of books that you would like us to chat about then fill out the Contact Me form here with your details and we can arrange a future interview slot.

Still want more? Well, we are all avid readers of our favourite books and blogs, with Gordon’s blog being one to make a serious effort to keep up with, along with mine of course 😉 For more articles on the theme of ‘Avid’ then check out the links below:-

1. Avid Runner… – Run and Travel
2. Nida Abrar – Freedom of Heart…
3. Am I listening? – My Daly Bred
4. shame – Excuses
5. Warmth of Sunshine – alfaazmeredilse
6. The Blue Dress – Girl Writing
7. Le Drake Noir – Seven prompts again
8. My Mixed Blog – Avid Determination
9. Bonkers Away! – Avid
10. Hvar, Croatia – Thirty by Thirty
11. pray, eat, sleep, repeat – How do I blog…
12. simply.cindy – Swings and Sharing
13. My Personal Blog – An Avid Gamer
14. the heart is longing for the butterfly’s wings – jacey caitlyn speaks
15. Mainline_Matter – Avid Machinists
16. The Gypsy Soul Diaries – Plantage Peperpot
17. Selfie – awesomeloopy
18. Spring Contentment – The Chicken Grandma
19. Laurel Grove loves… – Bummer: Amazon in bed with Ivanka
20. Avid interest – Website of FahmeenaOdetta Moore
21. The View From My Window – 7 Tips to Recognizing Opportunity
22. On The Lake – Leigha Robbins
23. An Avid Photographer of Nature – Hummings from Paradise
24. Best Books – Beach Books Blog
25. Stuck: The 5 Signs… – Success Strategies
26. “The something closest to doing nothing is walking.” – fades in…
27. Invisible Illnesses – Zip – Daily Prompt
28. mycreatorscreation – Avid
29. Pilgrimage – imaginaryfaces
30. Sagesse :|: Oblige – (Your Name Here)
31. 7 Things To Do When You Don’t Know What To Do… – Success Strategies
32. Boon – kittysverses
33. Nature’s Little Secrets – AnneObure
34. What Is Love and Life? – Avidly Passionate Avidly Greedy
35. Writing just to Write – Reactionary Tales
36. disappointment – Tiny Fawns Writings
37. AVID LAZYNESS – GET RICH OR DIE TRYING
38. I Disappear into books. What’s your Super Power? – The Monica Shastri
39. The Americas GP – ARMY OF THE FALLEN BIKERS
40. India’s GodFather : Poetry on Dr. Ambedkar – Saint Monk
41. Glorious Impact – Avid
42. Whistleblown! – a nomad in cyberspace
43. Avid for Words – Creativity for You
44. Follow the joy – Debbie Gravett
45. The journey continues.. – DeepikasRamblings
46. Live Avidly – aroused
47. “Avid.” – Nomadic Adventurer
48. anyway – writemebad
49. 4 words, 4 letters – Spreading My Wings
50. sonja benskin mesher – . did you mean david?
51. helen meikle’s scribblefest – Daily prompt: What you think when you don’t have to worry about ratings
52. motus in verba – Avid.
53. Me. – manumausam
54. Author Cynthia Mackey – Happy Book Birthday, Katie Shaeffer!
55. Avid (The young avid lover) – Write Ally! Write!
56. Violently Avid!! – Welcome to the World of Wellness
57. Live Free 2 Sail Fast – Hunter Sailboat Discussion
58. Avid: A Blog Response from Kids – Wandering Outside the Box
59. simply.cindy – Katie’s Wish/Happy Book Birthday!
60. Booksworms… – Mum’s the Word Blog
61. What is Common Between? – On a mission
62. Tangled Webs – Avidly Substituting
63. (Flash Story) The Adventures of Iric, Vol 19 – jmwwriting
64. Diva – On a mission
65. Avid – Book Meets Girl
66. Avid – wordsareallihavesite
67. The Pursuit of Passion: Jo Takes a Leap – That Life Blog…
68. Avidness or a wish or a habit – A crab that wrote
69. Dipping Into the Heart – Spamalot Weekend
70. Counting sheep – Un Camino de Hojas Secas
71. WOTD avid – Kimo’s Den Of Iniquity
72. Some Guy On Facebook – northwest journals
73. Hopeful – Playing with words
74. In an avid conversation with William Shakespeare – On a mission
75. Finding Hope Ness – Trump takes aim at Canada
76. AVID – Yeah, I Read!!
77. Avid – Snapshots of Life
78. hopeforheather – Avid
79. Namaste Collective – lifeofangela
80. “I’m becoming an avid snow shoveler” – Your Nibbled News – 2017 YNN
81. The Showers of Blessing – Best Gift of Books
82. Kristen Ankiewicz – Avid writer not avid reader
83. Avon 365 – Avid – Daily Prompt
84. Musings of a Random Mind – An Ideal Dream Date
85. Curious Hart – Leonard’s Legs Leave Home
86. Somewhere In-Between – a moment teller’s
87. Find Your Avid – Random Daily Thoughts
88. Swell Time – Surfing through life
89. Biodiversity Efforts – stbarbebaker
90. Avid Birder – Scattered Showers in a Clear Sky
91. Lost Property Repository – R.I.P. Good People
92. LadyLebz – A WOMAN’S GUIDE TO FIRST TIME SEX
93. AVID – Author Tony Damian, RMT, CMT on Self-Healing
94. The Pursuit of Passion (and lesser things) – My World With Words
95. I am what I… – A trip to the library
96. It’s The Little Things – Back in Harmony… All-One!
97. An Avid Desire to Create Wire Wrapped Jewellery. – Dysis Design
98. Faith Unlocked – Be Avid in Faith
99. My First Stand-Up Comedy in Copenhagen – passiondesignerblog
100. My Simple Blog – Avid Reader
101. Sir Richard Francis Burton – thehouseofbailey
102. The Colour of Poetry – This is about Fear…
103. Avid–Daily Prompt – Fearless
104. Scrambled, Not Fried – Overkill
105. Na’ama Yehuda – Live Avidly
106. Avid Support… – A Place to learn and grow together
107. Success Inspirers World – Time To Stop
108. Avid Readers All – neilsworldofenglish
109. MISPLACED PEACES – Avid Word Searcher
110. Time To Stop – atrangizindagieksafar
111. Another Remarkable Day – Avid Trust Builder
112. President Trump (Avid) – Beatrice’s Page
113. Fiction Fashion Fix – Lose yourself in my imagination
114. New Ideas And Inspirations – Avid
115. Seagull’s eggs – Don’t hold your breath
116. The Eye of a Thieving Magpie – Confessions of an Avid Birder
117. BOOKMARKS AND BOOKWORMS – rhymeagination
118. I am Avid at Being Avid (Daily Word Prompt is Avid) – My Loud Bipolar Whispers
119. For want of a few words – Asma
120. Valkyrie – Inner Whispers
121. The Flittering Soul – Dreams without wings
122. Requiem for a My Mac – Smell The Coffee
123. Jibber Jabber with Sue – Pretty Please With Sugar on Top?!
124. The Cat Chronicles – Daily Feline Prompt: Avid Feline
125. One Line Sunday- AVIDity – In my world
126. Chronicles of an Anglo Swiss – Getting Avid
127. lifelessons – a blog by Judy Dykstra-Brown – Adios
128. How Much I Hate… – Wings Of Poetry
129. Original-Dante – Ardent.
130. Flowers and Breezes – Avid
131. Nothing has to be Forever – Organising Life
132. Just Some Thoughts – Beautiful Mind
133. Avid – travel387
134. My Avid world: – Storysite
135. Just When Avid is Involved – WritersAndReaders
136. #28poet – the departed
137. Just When Avid is Involed – WritersAndReaders
138. A Note With a Difference – Nan’s Farm-Inside Out
139. Lives In Stone – Walking by
140. A Sprouting Seed… – Avid
141. Listener (Haiku/Senryu) – Thoughts of Words
142. juantetcts – Daily Post
143. Zombie Flamingos – Well what do you know? It’s Sunday.
144. mylocalweb – WordPress forum
145. CLIMB – The Moving Finger Writes
146. Haiku Theme: Avid – Mick E Talbot Poems
147. y – there is often a
148. Soy de luz y sombra. – The Door
149. She was avid for information.’ – SweetHandlettering!
150. 23 April, Sunday – My Day Notebook
151. Awl and Scribe – Avid
152. In gedachten – @Peter’s Blog
153. Avid – All About Writing and more
154. Avid – Image & Word
155. The insatiable curiosity of a breeze – Sarahs Crazy Mind
156. Perfect Earth – LifeBlog
157. The Ultimate Book Tag!! – Prerna’s blog
158. The Painter and His Muse. – Passionately Me
159. PACKAGED PLAINLY in which sexuality is a production – Oiseaux Words
160. Avid… – Cyranny’s cove
161. Collateral Damage, a poem – Sumyanna Writes
162. MY ENDURING BONES – She ( has always ) Fought Like A Boss
163. Meta pretends she’s a prostitute – CD-W, Author Flawed to Perfection
164. Keen Interest……. – emotionsoflife2016
165. Cognizant Consciousness – Free The Truth
166. The Ribbons (3/4) – A Glimpse of Darkness
167. Zachary W Gilbert, Author – Drink up words, drink up people
168. Exploring the World around us – Avid
169. MULIEBRAL VIEWPOINT – THE PRICE OF A LIFE
170. When Dogs Get Avid – I’m a Writer, Yes, I Am!
171. Avid Truth Seekers – Islamic Methodologies Made Easy
172. Southern By Design – Hungry Haikus
173. What makes a Good Musical Song – Meg’s Magical Musings
174. Date Due – THEGIRLVERSUSWORLD
175. Enid avidity (sounds like a bird disease) ⋆ Obsolete Childhood
176. Ad Version – Monkebus
177. Martha L Shaw – HOW’D I MISS IT?
178. Eyes Of An Avid Lover – eddaz
179. kStan(ly) kSays – no sneakers
180. Haiku #6 – Stories
181. UNLEASHING THE INSIDES – Rainbow
182. Everybody’s got to learn sometime…
183. Purposive Writer – Be Present
184. Avidity – Ripples N Reflections
185. Taking Back My Life One Bite at a Time – Jacki Kellum
186. Pick me ups to look and feel your best – art of being fabulous
187. Lost Property Repository – Breakthru
188. The Zealous Nature – As I was saying…
189. A detour through the garden – Don’t hold your breath
190. B_ live – Imagine a Window
191. It starts with me – Avid Healing
192. Avid – Daily Prompt – Ladyleemanila
193. Azalea Frost – 9. Payback
194. Devil Doll Musings – Avid (Haiku)
195. World Book Day! – My Random Ramblings
196. WAATS Restaurant – Blog DJ
197. Rock Hard: Christie wins the bet – Redux Of Rex
198. Frank Prem – the blackberry
199. An Avid Fan – NOOKS&CRANNIES
200. Lantern Words – Too Avid
201. Lost Property Repository – The Pirate Captain: Wenches And Mead

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2 thoughts on “Author Interview – Gordon C. Stewart – “Be Still!: Departure from Collective Madness” (Poetic Theological Essays on Politics, Pop Culture, Economy and Much More)

  1. Pingback: Grandpa, are you famous? | Views from the Edge

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