Guest Post: Embracing Christian Themes While Writing Afta-U by Author, Jennifer Lynn Kenniston

It is my pleasure to take part in Jennifer-Lynn Kenniston’s WOW! Blog Tour for her début novel, Afta-U

Today Jennifer will be sharing her thoughts and insights on embracing Christian themes while writing a Christian novel. Her post is honest and provides us with a look inside her emotions as she wrote Afta-U.

Welcome, Jennifer!


EMBRACING CHRISTIAN THEMES
WHILE WRITING AFTA-U

BY JENNIFER-LYNN KENISTON

I am going to be honest here: when I began writing the first draft of Afta-U, I wasn’t writing it with an audience in mind. It was a personal book, something I had to write. Simply put, it was a life-long dream of mine to write a full-length novel, and I had to build up the confidence in myself that I could actually do it. So, I had no problem initially embracing writing Christian themes for this first draft, since some of the themes registered deep inside of me even though the story itself was fictional.

But then I finished writing the first draft.

And for a fleeting moment after I finished writing this first draft, my initial joy turned to fear. I began to panic and question if writing these Christian themes throughout this novel would discourage readers from reading it. It was then that my friend, Lisa, said to me: “Do you know what the number one best-selling book of all time is? Well, let me tell you: it’s the Bible! And over 5 billion copies have been sold.”

I smiled. I needed to hear that reminder. I also discovered my niche audience. It was the Christian reader. A few of the prevalent Christian themes in Afta-U, are ones that I’m still personally working to achieve as my novel is released into the mainstream. For example the idea of “Let Go Let God.” Like Jean, I often find myself trying to control situations and I still struggle to release and have faith in leaving it all up to God and His plan. There are other powerful themes mixed into the story, such as the idea of forgiveness for oneself and others, and being present in the now and not trapped in the past or future.

When I began the editing for my début novel, I did tone down some of the Christian themes and scenes, but I was determined not to be deterred from writing these. Instead I was going to embrace these themes and do so without forcing them onto the reader and taking away from the enjoyment found in reading the story itself.

When I finished the multitude of drafts and editing, I realized that, yes, the audience would be these Christian readers, but perhaps those non-Christian readers would actually enjoy the book and who knows, there could be that one reader who might need to either connect or reconnect with their faith, and perhaps they will decide to do so, after they have finished reading and put down Afta-U.


Thank you, Jennifer, for joining my readers and me today to share your thoughts and feelings on what, for me at least, is an area of interest and one filled with many questions. For those of us wanting to include a Christian theme in our work, whether it is fiction or nonfiction, these are issues to be vetted on a personal level like so many others.

 

THE BOOK

Michael’s smile broadened. “It seems you’re surprised to see me, Jean. Don’t tell me you thought that they’d leave an eleven-year-old boy locked away forever.”

Twenty-nine years after the tragic death of her childhood best friend, Hope, Jean Cartwright Rhodes returns to her hometown with her husband and daughter after she inherits the house her friend’s family once lived in. Now, years later, she finds herself haunted by a dark truth – and by the specter of Hope herself.

Every time Jean looks through her kitchen window, she sees two stark reminders of her troubled past; the Afta-U sailboat, ironically named after young Hope, and the old oak tree where her eleven-year-old friend met her death at the hands of another child.

Afta-U unfolds as a psychological chess match, a complex web of intrigue, unexpected relationships, lies, and devastating secrets as Jean struggles with the impact of decisions she made long ago on all the lives around her. When Jean confronts and tries to come to grips with Hope’s killer, she finds herself waging a personal battle between madness and redemption.

PURCHASE THE BOOK:  Amazon

MEET JENNIFER-LYNN KENISTON

Raised in Hanson, Massachusetts, the author earned a Master of Arts degree in English, from Bridgewater State College in Massachusetts, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, with a concentration in writing and a minor in philosophy, from Plymouth State College in New Hampshire. Jennifer-Lynn currently works as a project manager for a company that provides cloud software products for call centers at small, medium, and enterprise companies. In April 2014, she started her own business, Ansel Resume Resolution Services LLC, writing resumes and cover letters. She now lives and writes in Concord, New Hampshire, and enjoys teaching Spinning classes in her free time.

CONNECT WITH JENNIFER:

FACEBOOK | TWITTER | WEBSITE

 Perhaps you have considered a Christian theme in your memoir or novel, and further you have questioned whether using such themes is going to help or hurt you as a writer. If so, maybe you’d like to share a bit about how you rationalized your final choice. Let’s talk!

The Memoir Writer’s Hidden Nerve by Susan G. Weidener

Today my guest is Susan G. Weidener, author of A Portrait of Love and Honor: A Novel Based on a True Story, her first novel based on a true story. In addition, Susan has written two memoirs, Again in a Heartbeat: A Memoir of Love, Loss and Dating Again and Morning at Wellington Square.
As part of her WOW! Women on Writing blog tour, Susan shares her thoughts on the memoir writer’s hidden nerve. Please join us in the comment section to share your own thoughts on this topic.

Welcome, Susan!

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Author Susan Weidener

All writers have “a hidden nerve,” a “secret chamber” which stirs their prose. For some, the hidden nerve is so deep, they can’t write about it – not yet.

When we look at ourselves in the mirror, what do we see?  A reflection? Who are we? Who are the people we write about? Is our honesty compromised in an attempt to “protect” them and/or family secrets and myths? Do we undermine our writing by trying to protect ourselves and others?

It’s easy to confess. Introspection takes a whole lot more courage. Sometimes we don’t even know what we want or need to confess. In A Portrait of Love and Honor, Ava asks Jay what drew him back to West Point year after year even after he kept experiencing pain and rejection. At first, he tells her it was always his “dream” to attain “those gold lieutenant bars.”

As he works with her on his memoir, he begins to realize that it goes much deeper . . . that there were spoken and unspoken messages and expectations by his strong-willed mother. Jay begins to understand that it was his mother’s “dream” to move beyond the immigrant experience and become part of the American success story. “I suppose if my mother could say her son graduated West Point then it would make up for her own disappointments,” Jay tells Ava. And if he dropped out of West Point, he ultimately disappointed and defeated her.

In my memoirs Again in a Heartbeat and Morning at Wellington Square, I write about a woman in white wedding gown who believed that good things come to good people – she believed life was something she could control  . . . until her illusion is shattered by illness and death. As I wrote my memoirs, I wrestled with my guilt and shame. Why had I not been a better wife to my husband at the end of his life? Why had I blamed him, not the disease for shattering my dreams of happily-ever-after?

In writing my memoir, I dropped the pretense that I was ‘perfect’ and tried to make peace with my own unique quirks and flaws . . . and in the process, forgive myself. I had been hard on John because I was losing my dreams and youth.  There were other revelations, too.  John was irreplaceable, but that didn’t mean I wouldn’t do it all over again in a heartbeat.

The “hidden nerve” is what makes us tick as writers . . . it’s what makes us want to write our stories.  It’s what memoir writers wish to uncover. dividerAbout A Portrait of Love and Honor: A Novel Based on a True Story

A Portrait of Love and Honor by Susan G. WeidenerNewly-divorced and on her own, 40-something Ava Stuart forges a new life. One day, at a signing in the local library for her novel, a tall, dark-haired man walks in and stands in the back of the room. Jay Scioli is a wanderer – a man who has said good-bye to innocence, the U. S. Army, and corporate America. His outlook on life having changed, his health shattered by illness, he writes a memoir. In his isolation, he searches for an editor to help him pick up the loose ends. Time may be running out. He is drawn to the striking and successful Ava. Facing one setback after another, their love embraces friendship, crisis, dignity, disillusionment. Their love story reflects a reason for living in the face of life’s unexpected events.

Based on a true story, A Portrait of Love and Honor takes the reader from the halls of the United States Military Academy at West Point during the Vietnam War to a moving love story between two people destined to meet.

Note: If you wish, you can read my review of A Portrait of Love and Honor: A Novel Based on a True Story at this link.

Get to Know Susan G. Weidener:

Susan G. Weidener is a former journalist with The Philadelphia Inquirer. She has interviewed a host of interesting people from all walks of life, including Guy Lombardo, Bob Hope, Leonard Nimoy, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter and Mary Pipher.  She left journalism in 2007 and after attending a women’s writing retreat, wrote and published her memoir, Again in a Heartbeat, a memoir of love, loss and dating again, about being widowed at a young age. Two years later, she wrote and published its sequel, Morning at Wellington Square, a woman’s search for passion and renewal in middle age. Her novel, A Portrait of Love and Honor, completes the trilogy, inspired by and dedicated to her late husband, John M. Cavalieri, on whose memoir the novel is based.  Susan earned a BA in Literature from American University and a master’s in education from the University of Pennsylvania. An editor, writing coach and teacher of writing workshops, she founded the Women’s Writing Circle, a support and critique group for writers in suburban Philadelphia. She lives in Chester Springs, PA.  Her website is:  www.susanweidener.com.

You can connect with Susan via:

https://twitter.com/Sweideheart
http://www.susanweidener.com/
http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B004G7AXQY
https://www.facebook.com/susan.weidener

dividerWhere You Can Purchase A Portrait of Love and Honor:

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Social Workers with Guns, a Memoir by Fred Weinberg, Today’s Guest

Fred Weinberg is the author of a recently self-published memoir, SOCIAL WORKERS WITH GUNS, reflecting on his 30-year career as a parole officer in New Jersey and New York between 1958-1988. I learned of Fred through Francine (Fran) Silverman, an online publicist who gets her clients on the radio, a radio host, compiler of 16 ebooks of talk radio shows and editor of a bi-weeky newsletter for authors.In today’s post, Fred via Fran is allowing me to share an excerpt from his memoir. I suggest when someone asks about being too old to write, share Fred’s name and approximate age with them (he’s over 80!). Obviously 80 plus is not too old to write.

From Campus to Career

By Fred Weinberg

Following In His Footsteps?

As long as I can remember I believed my dad wanted me to follow in his footsteps and become a dentist. The first failure was being rejected by the University of Pennsylvania, his alma-mater. I managed a last-minute acceptance to Tulane University and struggled with chemistry in a very competitive pre-med program. Eventually I flunked out.

With some assistance from an older sister, I was accepted at the NYU Pre Social Work program. I did well and was rewarded with a scholarship to the Graduate School of Social Work at the age of 24.

Unsure of My Future

Yet I was still unsure about a career in social work and dropped from the program.

Turning Point

On a snowy and hazardous car trip to Trenton, NJ, when I was feeling especially blue, I inadvertently found the Central Office for the New Jersey Bureau of Parole. Four hours later I was offered a provisional appointment as a parole officer. That snowy day in March 1958 that started so badly would be a turning point in my life and set the stage for a 40-year successful career in criminal justice.

“Retirement”

After retiring 27 years later as Chief of the Bureau of Special Services at the New York State Division of Parole, I was looking for another career.

Volunteer Work

A friend suggested I do some volunteer work and put me in touch with a New York-based Elderhostel program. This led to doing hospital work where I was offered a job helping to formulate an advocacy program for patients in the hospital’s ambulatory care center and was offered a part-time job as Team Leader.

I now volunteer in the hospital’s pediatric department once a week.

At 81, I don’t have a plan. I take it one day at a time and I don’t think in terms of age. I recently expressed interest in another Reserve Inc. job and I’m hoping to get a shot at an interview because I know this one is right for me. If not, who knows what’s around the corner?

*Follow Your Own Dreams

*Learned Skills Can Often Be transferred from one career to another

*If you wish to continue working in old age, develop skills while young.


Do you have stories you’ve not yet shared with your children or grandchildren? Think you’re too old to write them down or speak them into a tape recorder? Or maybe even publish them? Take a lesson from Fred. We all have ups and downs in our lives, and sometimes they can help younger generations make wiser decisions than we did. Write now!

A Certain Certainty by Daisy Hickman

I am honored today to have as my guest, Daisy Hickman, author of Always Returning: The Wisdom of Place (read my review here)Daisy and I share a love of great art, both in painted and written form. Today Daisy writes about one of our favorite artists, Claude Monet, as she offers the history of a print she recently acquired as well as some of Monet’s own words with us.And now I give you Daisy and her beautiful post.

A Certain Certainty

Last year via the Art Institute of Chicago’s online information, I stumbled across a winter landscape that I loved immediately. I should have known it was a Monet. Drawn to Claude’s magnetic work for as long as I recall—Monet and the other great impressionists—I’m pretty sure I must have been around during this era of controversial artistic endeavor. In a former lifetime, you know!

“People discuss my art and pretend to understand as if it were necessary to understand, when it’s simply necessary to love.” ~ Monet

Long story short, I bought the inexpensive print, had it framed, and find myself drawn to it a great deal. Never tiring of it, but always calmed and inspired by its quiet eloquence.

The original 1895 oil on canvas painting is in the Art Institute of Chicago – a gift of Bruce Borland – and though I’ve never seen it, I’m content to imagine its comforting presence.

  • But how did this wonderful painting come to be? What was Claude thinking as he created it?

Monet traveled to Norway in 1895: a trip that evolved into a difficult two-month campaign because of the harsh, winter conditions. Nonetheless, the ambitious painter captured 29 Norwegian scenes during this brief period. Reportedly, there were at least six views of Sandvika, a village whose iron bridge may have reminded Monet of the Japanese bridge at his home in Giverny.

One of these views—inscribed, lower left: Claude Monet 95—is simply called Sandvika, Norway, 1895.

Stunning in its simplicity, the eye is immediately drawn to the touch of red – the various shades of blue, lavender, and charcoal. Clearly, it is a quiet winter day, yet, the distinguished artist managed to capture something more. This “something more” is what I ponder and explore when I gaze at this print – often before falling asleep at night.

Here is what I have to so far: the bridge is key, don’t you think? Who will cross it next, and why? Almost as if it’s waiting for someone to emerge from a warm house, maybe not until spring, maybe before. And the trees, bare and somewhat lifeless, yet also patiently in waiting. I should point out, though most of you already know, that Monet painted outside. This painting was no exception.

From the Art Institute of Chicago website: “Although he was somewhat perturbed by the interest taken in him by local painters, he probably added to his celebrity by stubbornly insisting on working outdoors in the poorest of conditions. He wrote to a friend in Paris: ‘You would have laughed if you could have seen me completely white, with icicles hanging from my beard like stalactites.’”

“It’s on the strength of observation and reflection that one finds a way. So we must dig and delve unceasingly.”  – Monet

I agree with him here: We must dig and delve unceasingly. So this painting, as an inspiring focal point, will continue to be a welcome source of observation and reflection for me. There is a certain certainty about it, don’t you think? The unspoken promise of days to come. Warmer days, that is. But there is an air—an impression—of quiet contentment, as well. Remembering to value each breath, despite external conditions, comes to mind. Though winter, the painting is still bursting with life.

I’ve always felt that, as a writer, I am also an Impressionist. This is where I am most at home – when I’m capturing something more than black and white facts. In looking for that hidden, but enduring pattern, for an insightful observation that would be easily overlooked, for me, this gets us closer to the reality of our brief lives than the swirling sea of details that are entirely fleeting.

But, finally, we also can see in this painting the uncertain nature of life. Hidden lives under each white roof. Beginnings and endings alike. A sky that reveals little.

Monet lived from 1840-1926, yet, his endearing spirit is here with us now, and perhaps that is all we can really know about life. Everything changes, yet, nothing changes. Finding peace within paradox must be why I love this painting. Looking closely, I see that it’s all there. Life in subtle shades; life in constant flux; life being transformed moment by moment. Unseen, yet, felt.

Bravo, Monet. You captured my heart. ~

  • Thank you, Sherrey, for this lovely opportunity to share these thoughts on your inspiring blog. You are such a warm and generous friend. In the spirit of Monet, merci!

More about Daisy Hickman

D.A. (Daisy) Hickman is a poet, an author, and the 2010 founder of SunnyRoomStudio–a creative, sunny space for kindred spirits. Hickman holds a master’s degree in sociology from Iowa State University, and earned her bachelor’s degree at Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri. A member of the Academy of American Poets and the South Dakota State Poetry Society, Hickman is at work on her first poetry collection and on a memoir.

Where the Heart Resides: Timeless Wisdom of the American Prairie was published in 1999 by William Morrow (Eagle Brook imprint. In 2014, Always Returning: The Wisdom of Place, the second edition of Where the Heart Resides, a 15th Anniversary Edition, was published by Capture Morning Press.