Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Light Bearer

Donna Gillespie's first book, "The Light Bearer" was published in 1994 after twelve years of research and writing. Her sequel, "Lady of the Light" was published twelve years later in November of 2006.

I have read 488 pages of the 1011 pages of her first novel. Suddenly, I have a different perspective on how long I should take to write a book: as long as it takes to get it right; as long as it takes to craft a story of such stunning beauty it breathes and moves, a living thing.

In "The Light Bearer", story, character, action, setting, and prose all flow through the mind as smoothly as a rippling river glinting in the sun. The time I give up for reading is valuable to me, and so I demand much of the books I read. I want to be entertained, inspired, informed, enlightened and changed by the experience. "The Light Bearer" has met my demands within the first half of the book to such a degree that I am confident the rest of the book will too.

Is twelve years too long to write one novel? Not if it results in a work as remarkable as Gillespie's, but time alone will not produce such a work. Reading Donna's biography, I see that education, training, and a passion for her subject also contributed to making her work exceptional. Not least of all, talent, that intangible but necessary trait that sets writers apart from imitators, is in no short supply with Gillespie.

In the forest of published books, Donna Gillespie's novels are landmark trees, setting a tall standard for anyone writing an historical novel.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Celebrating Freedom

Today is President's Day, formerly known as Lincoln's Birthday. Lincoln, "The Great Emancipator", is strongly associated with the concepts of freedom and equality. I'm happy to celebrate his birthday.

It was a profound experience to visit the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D. C. last October, to read his words etched in stone there, and to see how, in every crisis of our nation's history since Lincoln, his powerful thoughts remain a relevant prod to our national conscience.

My sister and I stood in front of his great statue and looked straight ahead, to view what his eyes unblinkingly regard at the other end of the great Mall: the United States Capital, the building on top of Capital Hill which houses the legislative powers of our country.

Oh how I would that his eyes, like great beacons of truth, should sternly remind each and every member of the House and the Senate of their awesome responsibilities to their country, to continue to defend and nourish the freedom and liberty for which so many have bled and died.

I think of today as Freedom Day, and I shall spend it enjoying the freedom I have as an American woman.

The majority of women, in most times of history and still in certain countries to this day, are denied freedom, in the same way that slaves were in Lincoln's time. They are told the same excuses -- that they are better off being 'taken care of', and that if they had freedom they'd be in danger as if they were clueless children, and that it is God who dictates their subservience. It wasn't true of blacks then and it isn't true of women now. But oppressors will always find ways to justify themselves in their own eyes.

I give thanks to all those who struggled to make women free and equal citizens and continue to hope for my sisters still in bondage, that they too may obtain freedom and equality.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

My name isn't Michael

My mother and father were married on Christmas Eve during WWII. They wrote hundreds of letters to each other while he was in the Navy. Before she died, my mother gave my sister and I a shoebox full of those few that she saved.

Imagine my surprise when I found out that they were calling me Michael in those letters while my mother was pregnant with me. I guess they were surprised when they had a little girl instead of a boy. I don't remember them ever telling me they had imagined having a boy, but now I wonder if my tomboy ways grew out of those roots.

"Words are a form of action, capable of influencing change." (Ingrid Bengis)