WONDER — The Spark of Truth

I’ve been working on a memoir of my sister and me covering the first five years of her life. Struggling with author voice and the art of stringing events together in a cohesive fashion, fellow Scriblerian TJ Akers suggested I read Wonder.

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Wonder, by R.J. Palacio, is a novel, but it reads like a memoir. In both my story and Palacio’s, the subject matter focuses on growing up in a family where one of the siblings has special needs. My sister overcame several physical handicaps. In Wonder, Auggie must tolerate people’s reactions to his facial disfigurements, and he must have the fortitude to become vulnerable to others if they are to ever know the soul behind the face.

 

 
Published in 2012, Wonder has already been noted as a modern classic, and I can see why. Classic literature takes readers beyond a good story, rich in emotion. It takes us deeper into the meaning of life. Secular or Christian, it doesn’t matter. Humans are made in God’s image, and all of us have been created with kindling in our hearts that bursts into flame at a touch from the spark of truth.

spark to kindling
Palacio’s writing style in displaying Auggie’s courage and honesty is such a spark. She has accomplished what I’m aiming for. I want my sister’s perseverance and spritely spirit to set hearts on fire.

 

 
Many of the books I review here at The Scriblerians fall into the “classics” category. Which children’s books have you read that sparked fire in your heart?

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Jeri Massi

As most of you realize by now, I’m a great fan of Jeri Massi’s novels for tweens having posted two book reviews: Derwood, Inc. a year ago, and Hall of Heroes earlier this week. Jeri graciously agreed to an interview. After all, how could any author resist my enthusiasm?

Hall of Heroes

 

Whenever possible, the Scriblerians invite our honored authors to “sign” our slam book.

Nickname (in childhood or now or both): Jeriwho

Genre: I prefer to write fantasy and SF but rarely get a chance to do so. I’ve written across many different genres: Westerns, mysteries, adventures, historical, fantasy, SF, etc.

Favorite scripture: Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.

He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.

Isaiah 53:10-11

Favorite quotation: All warfare is based on deception. – Sun Tzu

In high school, I was… loud, and tall.

 

 

Jeri blog
Jeri, welcome to the Scriblerians.
Thank you, Linda. It’s an honor.

 

 
As you know, I love your Peabody Kids series, especially the first book, Derwood, Inc. The humor is timeless. In fact, I recently spoke with a fifth grade teacher who still uses Derwood in her classroom. She shared with me that the book is her kids’ favorite choice in the curriculum. How have you updated your characters since the Derwood Series was published about – what – 30 years ago?
If a character works in a story, he or she should never need to be updated. Jack will always be the charming leader, and Penny the loyal companion. Scruggs will always be the person in transition. Humor and mysteries alike tend to be built on certain familiar character types, so while their clothing or jargon may change over time, they remain essentially the same whatever the time setting of the story. We see the same characters clearly in Hall of Heroes, which is an exact mirror of the characters from Derwood, Inc.

 

 
While Derwood was fun and adventurous with lessons for the Peabody Kids in each book, Hall of Heroes strikes deep. I took in such themes as: “Love God and enjoy Him forever,” and “Heaven completes our creation.” Have I nailed it, or would you add another theme dear to your heart.
“The Christian life is built on humility.” The humor of the story is built on the fact that the “good guys” think they are always going to be victorious, just because they are the good guys. They’re actually pretty arrogant and full of themselves. In short order, the bullies overthrow them and steal their club house. There is a thematic link to Martha Jenkins, who has done so much good in her life, but is facing certain death while still too young for it. Both groups have to accept their lot with humility. Jean herself notices that Digger seems much more heroic when he is helping around the house for Martha. He fulfills the role of a manly Christian effortlessly when he forgets about acting like a hero and simply offers his work to a suffering person.

 

 
Many of the readers of the Scriblerians blog are also writers, so I’d like to ask questions in relation to how you write your novels. Do you consider yourself a plotter or a pantser? When I think of Derwood, Inc. I assume it had a bare skeleton which you fleshed out with twists and turns that might have surprised you as you were writing. But did Hall of Heroes need a stricter outline?
All of my stories are outlined. I always think of the plot first, then complete it in outline form, and then start writing. If I decide to throw in a new twist, I usually outline it into the main outline.

 

 
While you had several comical moments with the villains in the story, the mature spiritual issues caused my chuckles to subside as I contemplated eternity and how God sees our mission on earth. When your readers finish the last sentence of the book, what do you want them to come away with?
Well, first, that nothing is as it seems. Martha Jenkins had a lot to offer, but she was pretty much ignored by her church. And nobody meant to be unkind to her; they just didn’t look hard enough to realize their Christian duty towards her. The real Hall of Heroes meets in Martha’s living room, three overlooked people who love each other and have fellowship in the face of a great tragedy. Christianity today is blinded by grandeur, and that’s a horrible blindness. We will find the power and the fellowship of Jesus Christ with the least of His brethren, always.

Second, we all die, and yet we all must live. Digger’s joy over regaining the club house is not misplaced. Martha herself had a full life until close to the end. We ought to live joyfully and make our boast in God, and we ought to approach death with humility and willingness to go where He leads us, even there.

 

 
I always enjoy teen and tween fiction when the main characters have GOOD parents, intact families with Mom and Dad loving each other and watching out for their children. Jean experiences growth as she makes her own decisions, and her wisdom comes from the example of her parents. Am I in the minority of adult readers today, or do you find the reading public does want wholesome material for their children?

I think the best readers want the truth, whether that truth is couched in a conventional story with a home and a hearth, or whether it’s couched in science fiction, or fantasy, or talking animals, etc. The reality is that many children do lose one parent, or both parents, and so fiction should also reach out to them. I have given up on figuring out what most readers want. I write what I believe makes a good story. I assume that if it keeps me and my spot readers entertained, it ought to entertain others.

Jeri Massi

Jeri and Ben

 

Want to know more about Jeri Massi? Read her Blog on the Way (www.jeriwho.net), follow her on Twitter (@jeriwho), or like her on Facebook (www.facebook.com/jerimassi).

Confessions of the world’s worst SuperMom

SuperMom - LG

If you’re like me, there are people in your life that amaze you.

I have a close friend who homeschools her eight children and makes it look easy. Wow.

There’s a sweet woman who works part time at our chuch who has sextuplets. I have no idea how she manages that! But she does – she says God provides, and I guess he’d have to!

If you notice, there’s a theme here. I’m in awe of women with lots of children who can get anything done, much less homeschool them. I am NOT gifted in those areas.

If you know me at all, you’ll know that there’s nothing that can make me curl into the fetal position and blubber like an idiot than the threat of being left alone with small children. My terror is directly related to the number of children, and indirectly related to their age. (To translate: the younger and more of them there are, the scarier it is to me.)

What most people see
What most people see
What I see

What I see

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love kids, especially my own. But there’s a reason why I don’t volunteer in the children’s ministry at my church. I tried it once /shudder/, and it went okay, but the thought of doing it again made me physically ill. I figured once I had kids of my own, it would get better. But you know what?

It didn’t.

It got worse. Once I had kids, I thought I should be able to handle it. That I should be able to single-handedly entertain and potty train a whole herd of munchkins. When I couldn’t, I labeled myself a failure and it spun me into a cycle of depression. The lies we tell ourselves do that.

The crazy thing is that some people see ME as SuperMom (bless their pointy heads) because I work part-time at our church, I’m a writer, I volunteer on 2 PTAs and with an online magazine as a production manager, I do consulting work, my husband and I lead a Bible study group… you get the idea.

Apparently, I make all these things look easy, and that gives the wrong impression that I’ve got all my stuff together. Which I absolutely do not. You would know that in a second if you saw the mess that was my house. Want proof? Here’s the Christmas wish list my youngest child made this year:

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#3 is on there because I’m horrible about going to the grocery store. (There might be kids there!) Minion 2 sometimes has a hard time finding something she likes for breakfast, or lunch, or dinner, or…/sigh/

Here’s the thing: all of us are uniquely gifted by God. Managing little children is not one of my gifts, but organization and administration is. So to people who aren’t good at organizing or managing things, I look like SuperMom. But to me, people who unconditionally love kids – each and every one, no matter race, color, creed, or disability – I’m in awe of them.

So I’ll make a deal with you. Let’s stop comparing ourselves to one another, and start celebrating the unique people God made us to be. And if you see someone doing a great job at something, make sure to tell them! Because you can be sure they’re failing at something else. 😉

NOW YOU: WHAT IS YOUR SUPERPOWER AND WHAT IS YOUR KRYPTONITE?

To belong…

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At only six days old,
my new family took me in.

They loved me as they could,
but it was hard.

You see I was African American,
adopted by a white Canadian family in the seventies.

Nowadays we see prams full of delightful mixed babies,
but back then I was an anomoly.

I was the only black person in an entirely white community,
and my parents (as most adoptive parents back then)
brought me home to raise as their own
with no thought of where I had come from.

When I was young I thought I was a fallen angel.

I couldn’t bear to think otherwise.
What other reason could there be
for me feeling like I had been abandoned in a hostile land?

This place was not my home.

In middle school I was destined to date the only other black guy.
When I was in highschool white school mates wouldn’t hang out with me
because of how I looked,
and black people  wouldn’t be my friend
because I didn’t talk quite right.

My life was split in two.

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So, my friend, if you want to speak of not belonging…
I truly feel your pain.

The characters in my books are often searching for a home,
a family,
and who they truly are.

And for everyone there is only one answer…
Which I think is best told in a story. 🙂

When I was a teen I hit rock bottom.
If I had been brave enough I would have taken my life.
By the grace of God, I decided to apply to work at a Christian camp,
and although my faith was shallow at best,
I was accepted because I knew the right answers (I was a Pastor’s kid).

It was the perfect place to hide from the world.

Everyday I worked alongside these “Christians”,
caring for kids that truly had nothing.
Three weeks in I walked into the director’s cabin,
and asked the question that was burning like a hot coal in my chest.

“Why is everyone so filled with joy?”

When she told me it seemed too easy.
God could do this?
But when they prayed for me,
I knew it to be true.

I had found home.

I learned that fitting in to this world wasn’t my purpose.

Perhaps you have hit rock bottom.
There is no joy.
You are the prodigal sitting in your own filth.
You stumble in darkness with no light.

There is a place for you.
And He offers comfort,
joy,
peace,

Home.

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Have you struggled with feeling alone or not belonging? When I share my story many people (no matter their background) nod their head in agreement. I would love for you to share your past or present struggles with me either as a comment on this blog or privately at my email address tracking dot truth dot kdb at gmail dot com (no spaces and symbols instead of ‘dot’ and ‘at’) so I can pray for you. 🙂

Karen deBlieck

Karen deBlieck