The Conversation – Book Review

I approach self-published books with lowered expectations. Calibrating my expectations was not necessary for “The Conversation” by Mike Gannaway, published by WestBow Press, a division of Thomas Nelson & Zondervan.

 

“The Conversation” shimmers with some of the same vibe as the classic “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” but reaches its destination within an efficient 110 pages.

 

Diane, thirty-eight and unmarried, is on her way to Bethany Beach, Delaware. In setting up the story, Gannaway displays uncanny talent for creating interest and intrigue with sensory details and forward momentum.

 

Diane is a confident, well-read, thoughtful woman who has developed her own credo for life: Choose Freedom. Having abandoned “clubbing scene” days when she dressed her chiseled body to tantalize men, she now knows that “the key to freedom was not burning off drudgery; it was not succumbing to it in the first place.” That’s some hard-earned wisdom, wouldn’t you say?

 

Less than a quarter of the way into the book, Diane sees a man sitting on the beach. It’s nighttime. The switchblade in her pocket is insurance, of sorts. She joins the man and they begin chatting.

 

Chris is attentive, polite and asks the right questions. He lets her go on for a while, mostly about herself. Things are going swimmingly, and readers might think, “This is nice. ‘Nice’ can get boring.”

 

Diane says she reads “history, science, philosophy, religion, classic literature, poetry…anything that increases my understanding of the world and grows me in sophistication and wisdom.” She’s coming across as a smug and preachy woman.

 

With laser accuracy and timing, Chris challenges Diane.

 

Now there’s tension and an exploration of opposing worldviews about the BIG topic with which most humans grapple: Finding life’s meaning and purpose. From this point on in their conversation, the stakes are raised and Diane’s “Choose Freedom” credo begins to erode like a sandcastle under the waves of Chris’ questions and counterpoints. Chris is not harsh or cruel to Diane during this crucial conversation. He is empathetic and genuine.

 

Gannaway possesses the intuition and skills to know when to reveal information and when to withhold it until later to best serve the plot and the debate. His sense of pacing is superb. While his style is lean, it’s clear that he’s thought deeply about how to portray a woman’s spiritual journey convincingly. In this he succeeds. (I’m happy to say, Gannaway does not resort to using annoying Celestine Prophecy-esque contrivances.)

 

If you’re searching for meaning, or if like Diane, you’re sure you already know the meaning of our existence, then this book is a prime candidate for your “read now” list.  The Conversation is appropriate for truth seekers from young adult age upward.

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Article by the author of Ken’s WarWhen teen rebellion & culture shock collide.

Visit https://www.facebook.com/kenswar.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQjZBjqFNzs&feature=youtu.be

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Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award- winning author of YA books.

 

 

 

Freelancing with Spirit: Part 2

When deciding if a magazine’s or website’s slant, tone and style mesh with your writing goals, read the “Editor’s Letter” for insights to their visions for their publications. Hunt for a mission statement, which can be encapsulated in a slogan on the magazine’s spine, on the cover or in a paragraph on or near the table of contents. Mission statements are usually outlined in writers’ submission guidelines and in resources such as Writer’s Market.
Check the table of contents to find out if the magazine allocates articles into regular departments. Familiarity with a magazine’s regular departments gives writers ideas for new articles and conveys the scope of the magazine’s content. Many magazine editors welcome readers’ stories while others, in submission guidelines, state the departments in which freelancer writers have the best chance of acceptance.

Take note of contributing authors’ bylines. If Gary Zukav (The Seat of the Soul) and authors of his caliber wrote the articles, move on. Writers lacking advanced degrees and invitations to appear on “Dr. Phil” should aim their articles at periodicals suitable for their level. Find your level. Work in it. Climb up.

And, yes, a few spiritual magazines (and editors) might seem too far-fetched. Before disregarding a magazine as a possible target, inquire about future themes. Just because last month’s issue was dedicated to alien visitations doesn’t mean an upcoming issue can’t be a down-to-earth round up of articles about coping with troubled teenagers.

A shuffle through the heap of spiritual magazines on my desk reveals that one refers to the Master, another refers to inner Reality, yet another to Source, whereas a magazine for women mentions goddess, divine self and higher self among other names for the power that is also known in some circles as the Godhead, Jesus Christ, Mother, Creator, Grandfather Spirit, Buddha…Whichever magazine a freelancer chooses to write for, it’s important to use the targeted magazine’s terminology. But don’t go against your own sacred beliefs just to sell an article.

Get a sense of reader demographics. Are readers predominantly single women, vegetarians, gay Christians, recovering substance abusers, agnostic vegetarians, middle-aged baby boomers seeking more meaningful lives?
These varied audiences pursue different lifestyles, even so, virtually all readers face similar challenges and joys in life and are, therefore, interested in reading articles about the similar, day-to-day challenges we all face.

Editors encourage hopeful contributors to relate to real people with real problems. The social merits of gossiping, meeting spiritual needs on the Internet, finding a good spa, and dealing with geriatric parents are examples of topics featured in those spiritual magazines heaped on my desk.
Successful writers of spiritual articles resist resorting to platitudes and clichés, unless they are used in a fresh, thought-provoking way. Published writers also avoid being preachy and pedantic. They strive to come across as empathetic and inspiring. They add original, heartfelt ideas to the body of thought already existing on a topic.

Researching material for a spiritual article and digging into one’s feelings sets the stage for the writer to experience a mini-epiphany – an added bonus. Furthermore, touching people’s lives positively through the written word is personally rewarding for freelance writers. Receiving checks in the mail ain’t bad either.

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(C) Beth Fowler 2014

(C) Beth Fowler 2014