by Ami McConnell
Harper Collins Christian Publishing
I have a real weakness for modern poetry, especially what scholars refer to as “confessional poetry.”
At the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville last month, I attended a confessional poetry reading that really blew my mind.
If you’ve ever been, you know that the Festival happens in Nashville’s Legislative Plaza on the weekend. Our Tennessee Legislature is not in session, so readings take place in the decades-old meeting rooms. So there we were-a motley group of nerdy, loner types waiting for the poets, sitting in folding chairs. On a dais in front of us, high-backed leather chairs flanked a horseshoe-shaped board table. A gavel rested in front of one particular chair. We waited and then finally the poets arrived. They both walked up to the lectern to take turns reading. It felt pretty stuffy at first.
But something amazing happened.
As the poets began reading, they poured out beautifully-shaped poems ripe with vitality and emotion. Gradually, each of us in the room became vulnerable-empathetic in a way we’d never dream of if we ran into one another, say, in a grocery store or at a gas station. There was weeping. And laughter. And afterward, during the “Q&A,” listeners shared their own stories, tenderly offering up bits of themselves. We were compassionate with one another, listening attentively, offering Kleenex as needed. Why? Because these confessional poets had first offered their most intimate selves to us via their art. In fact, they were inviting us to commune with them. (Does this remind anyone of John 1?)
My novelists friends, my deep desire is that together we will publish novels that invite communion–communion first between you-by way of your novel-and your individual reader. Then, God-willing, each reader will invite communion with others. Does that sound as beautiful to you as it does to me?
Are you willing to be vulnerable and brave in your novels-to share who you really are-for the sake of holy communion?
Ami McConnell is Senior Acquisitions Editor for Fiction at Harper Collins Christian Publishing.
Oh I LOVE this, Ami!!!
You named the main ingredient, Ami– vulnerability. Though fiction is not about telling our own stories there is a tender bit of us in every good story and when we tap into those emotions, the stories seem to touch people on a deeper level.
Loved your description of this gathering. How I wish I could have been there.
Oh yes, yes, yes. I think that is why I am so drawn to lyrical prose and beautifully vulnerable writing. Jamie Langston Turner’s SOME WILDFLOWER IN MY HEART and Susanna Kearsley’s THE WINTER SEA come to mind. There’s something so beautiful in vulnerability that strikes a chord with readers. If only it was as simple as it sounds to achieve.
Wendy, you would have fit right in!
Kathleen, oh how Some Wildfire in My Heart made me weep! Excellent example, friend.
Colleen, you bring this vulnerability–this invitation to communion–to every one of your novels.
I love this. I can always tell when the author allowed their vulnerability flow onto the page. It makes the story unforgettable.
What a great challenge to us as writers. I long for that communion. Here’s to not losing it in the midst of deadline pressure.
So beautifully expressed, Ami. No matter the subject, the era, or the genre, that longing for communion in its truest sense is what plunges me deeply into the books I read and the books I write. Thanks for putting it into words.
Ami, that was beautifully and wonderfully put. You hit the nail on the head with this post. It’s amazing how well we relate to vulnerability. May we not only be willing, but stay willing, to let vulnerability speak through our writing.
I am more than willing to let those vulnerabilites show. Thanks for the reminder to do so.