Tuesday, September 29, 2009

This Blog is a Book

refractions cup

"Blogging is for angst-filled teens."

That's what I said just a few months before launching Seedlings in Stone.

I was talking to Simon & Schuster's Director of Marketing and Promotion. I think we were both eating curried lentils when I showed my terrible naivete, but she forgave me— not for the lentils, but for the misled comment about blogging. Then she firmly contradicted me, "You need to blog."

She was right. Blogging has shaped my professional life in ways I never anticipated. And I'm not alone. Off-hand I can think of several wonderful friends who've found unexpected opportunities through blogging.

For instance, I just read a chapter in Makoto Fujimura's book Refractions: A Journey of Faith, Art, and Culture; it's called "Planting Seedlings in Stone: Art in New York City." The first time I read that chapter, it was a humble blog post. I loved the ideas so much that (obviously) I used part of the title to name my blog. At the time Mako wrote that post, did he have any idea it would one day be in a book, along with many of his other posts?

I think too of Gordon Atkinson, who started out as an anonymous blogger called Real Live Preacher. His posts, gathered and bound, now grace my home in the form of a lyrical, amusing, straight-on book called... um... what else... Real Live Preacher. Gordon now shares his life with us through his awesome writing, over at HighCallingBlogs.

Then there's Billy Coffey, who started tentatively, wondering... what would this blogging thing really lead to? Today, Billy writes a parenting column for us at HighCallingBlogs and he found an agent (or maybe she found him).

Ann Kroeker, the Parenting Content Editor at HighCallingBlogs approached other bloggers and included their work in her new book Not So Fast: Slow-Down Solutions for Frenzied Families. Why, just today, as part of my talk "Jesus the Gucci Guy", I read Ann Voskamp's contribution to the book. You could have heard a pin drop.

If you're here today, you probably know what blogging can do. But maybe you've got a writer friend who hasn't quite figured it out yet and is still typing largely off-line. Grab a dish of lentils (curried or plain) and break the news, "You need to blog."

refractions back

Refractions with Me in Long Island, photos by L.L. Barkat.

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Friday, September 25, 2009


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Beside Myself

Tabloid News

I am absolutely beside myself.


Who knew you could have so much fun in a box that holds 140 characters?

Last night I went to a Twitter party, with the coolest people in attendance— people from every corner of the States. @tspoetry started with quotes from John Leax's Tabloid News a book of poetry with surprisingly poignant poems based on tabloid headlines like, "Baby Born with Antlers" and "Leaping Turtles Invade U.S." (If you don't ordinarily buy poetry, this is one book that should make you reconsider your poetry-purchasing policy.)

Once the night began, it was champagne and laughter, food for the mind and soul. Tweeters talked of vampires and red clay, aliens and Elvis. It was decidedly unusual and refreshing.

With a few parties behind us at this point, several attendees decided to dedicate a whole blog to function as a kind of scrapbook and additional sharing space. (Coming soon; stay tuned.)

In the meantime, here are some of my favorite poems I tweeted last night. (Grab a bowl of chips, kick up your feet, and see.)

I used to believe
only other people
that was before I saw
that even an angel
could fall.


Too busy laughing
too calloused for desire,
he ignored smoke,
wings, the lifted gown.


Shouldn't there be laws
against angels flying
during duck-hunting season?
Well, if 'ya ask me
there should be.


Wouldn't you swear too
if by chance
or hidden desire
you culled an angel
from the stars
with smoke and buckshot.


Was it grace
that planted the hoof
knowing this alien world
was just now in need
of a shy faun?


When her gown
set fire
he could only say,
God, she is more lovely
than Asia.


Vegas is glaze,
a furnace of alien


She used to want blood,
a thin neck,
beating pulse
but now her heart
aches for donuts and cake
no one would give her
the stake for this.


Vampiress stalks
Midwest businessman,
seeks the pulse
of poetry to calm
her alien nights.

Speaking of fun, I want to say thank you to HighCallingBlogs (btw, I hear you made it into the top 100 Christian blogsites!), for bringing me on as Managing Editor. I appreciate the chance to work with such a great bunch of people. (Hey, Billy Coffey, I'm talking partly about you.)

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Monday, September 21, 2009

The Gift: Unwilling Art

in the sand

I am writing this for myself. And you. Of course, I always write for you.

Still, this week I'm working on a bigger writing project. And I need to remember Hyde's words, "There are at least two phases in the completion of a work of art, one in which the will is suspended and another in which it is active. The suspension is primary. It is when the will is slack that we feel moved or we are struck by an event, intuition, or image."

Sometimes, when I feel pressured, like this week, I want to prematurely move into the "will" stage. I want to force my way onto the page. I begin to feel nervous. (What shall I say to this crowd? Will it be profound, memorable, amusing, interesting... oh, anything worthy at all?)

Right now, I am trying to remind myself of the importance of play. I have the passage I'm speaking on. I have a few words that are calling to me from that passage. I need to scribble them, draw them, dream them, flip them. Play.

Sara on the Beach, photo by L.L. Barkat.

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Turning Up Emeralds

Jewels by Sara

The world is filled with poetic jewels. Sometimes it takes a while to find them. That's what happened with me and George Seferis, a Greek poet. I stumbled upon him, and feel enchanted by his every word.

Here are a few of his lines...

A little farther
we will see the almond trees blossoming
the marble gleaming in the sun
the sea breaking into waves...

And here is the poem his lines inspired in me...

I remember the scent
and how you crushed them,
their brown skins
turning to dust
scattering like spilled cinnamon.

Poetry Prompt: Next Friday at HighCallingBlogs, we're going to branch out and do another aspect of "Culture" besides poetry. RAP will resume the following week. In the meantime, you might try writing a brief poem based on the lines of someone else's poem.

High Calling Blogs Habitual Poetry
nAncY’s Holy
Glynn’s Who Were You in My Dream and Early Fall Leaves
Lorrie’s Fear
Monica’s Dream Girl
Kelly’s After Egypt
Jim's Thirty-Five

Jewels photo by Sara B. Used with permission.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

No Words

the hill

I do not want to put words to this place. Something in me simply wants to say, "Look..."









outside lighthouse

... and, too, look at the Child who wanted to see.

the entry

the stairs

leaning in

towards dark

Seashore photos by L.L. Barkat.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Journalism: Do You Have What it Takes?

Sara Alone

"I want to be a journalism major," the new graduate explained.

My muscles tightened. All I could think was... are you sure?

Journalism seems to be an obvious choice if you can write. Here's the deal though. It takes courage to be a journalist.

This past weekend I spent time with the writer of this controversial post, and she reminded me that she almost never chooses her own titles/subtitles. It takes a thick skin to let someone else pitch your articles through their version of the angle. Would you have what it takes?

In the case of this particular article, the title probably caused as much stir as the article itself. But the writer accepts her publisher's choices, even if it means eventual heat for her. She also occasionally accepts edits she doesn't necessarily agree with. It's par for the course. You cannot be a journalist without accepting these rules of the game. Would you have what it takes?

As a journalist, you can't just write your own opinion on things; you need to be part of a larger conversation. I marveled that the writer of this particular article opened a new side of the conversation... one she knew was less popular... because she understands her position in the journalistic world. But it takes guts to do that. In her case, if you read the comments, you'll even see what feels suspiciously like a death threat. Would you have what it takes?

I don't. But I deeply respect the people who do.


Speaking of journalists, I had the pleasure of meeting Mark Galli this weekend. And now I know what he likes to drink. (And he knows what my kids and I like to eat for dessert.) Oh yeah, and my Little One liked his talk on Liturgy.

Mark Galli

Dublin House

"Sara Alone", "Mark Galli", and "Dublin House" photos, by L.L. Barkat.

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Red Dress City

Sara Eternal

Though I live on its outskirts, it is my city. I am in the wintergreen Subaru when I hear the news. My children are laughing in the back seat and I shush them.

It is my city that is burning, ashes falling like snow. It is my husband who is slated to be at One World Trade Center, but decides to stay home. It is my husband who loses colleagues on that day, just like so many others... everybody is touched by this. And it is my husband who tells me in the weeks to come... how acrid is the lingering air.

I do not go. I cannot go. I cannot look. Months later, when the debris is cleared, I walk that street, look into that gaping space, remember those Windows on the World.

But I've never been able to fully process these things. Who can process tragedy, really? Here are my small tributes...

Eyewitness News, photo essay at IAM's Curator.

Tragedy in the Balance, at HighCallingBlogs.

Qui Es in Caelis, at Love Notes to Yahweh

I will write as soon

'Sara Eternal' and 'Titanic' photos by L.L. Barkat

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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Surely This Moment


Just accepted a "Staff Writer" designation at a very cool on-line art magazine. Curator. This is a great fit with my art pilgrimage. And a delightful writing opportunity in general. (Look for my first piece this coming Friday.) Thanks International Arts Movement!

But first things first. Surely this moment deserves chocolate.

Godiva Sales Case photo, by L.L. Barkat.

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Saturday, September 05, 2009

The Gift: in Action

Sonia & Sara by Sea

Thank you, Joan P. Ball. This is my definition of "gift" and "mentor."

Photo of Sonia and Sara at the Sea, by L.L. Barkat.

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Friday, September 04, 2009

Angel Blue Apple

Linda & apple tree

One word. That's what we were asked to work with. In 60 seconds or less. Me, I added another dimension. One piece of art. So here's my poem, based on the word "apple." And as you can see, the apples in this collage are blue...

"The Picking"

Who knew the apple
would turn

blue. It was just
blushing towards

red when I said to

ah this is for you,
my angel.

Linda and the Apple Tree collage, by Gail Nadeau. Used with permission.

Next week's prompt: try doodling a poem. Which is just to say, put down random words and phrases while you listen to a sermon, lecture, dinner-table chatter, whatever. See if you can frame these random thoughts into a basic poem. Post your offering by Thursday, September 10, and drop your link in my comment box.

***PLEASE DON'T BE SHY about dropping your link here. These days, I can't keep up with visiting all of you in a timely manner and I could miss your offering if you don't give me your link. Thanks. :)

High Calling Blogs When Writing, Apples are Optional
Claire’s You Are Creation
nAncY’s space
Glynn’s Summer Light
Ed G’s Eyes of My Heart
Marcus's 60 Seconds About a Dead Gerbil
Monica's Cage
Norman's Worship Interrupted

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Thursday, September 03, 2009

Casting for Beauty


Water washes over my toes. The sound of ocean ebb-and-flow eases tension. I stand, camera in hand, waiting for sun to set. Or I search the sand, the rocks, the waves.

He stands too.

A fisherman, waiting.

I hold up my camera as if to say... I'm fishing too, see? He moves on, becomes a silhouette against the dying sun. I watch him casting, casting. Fishing for dinner.


I am fishing too. Casting for beauty. With my lens I reign in a speckled rock.


I capture an accidental sacrifice— jellyfish rotting into amber blackness, spreads a star of beauty near what I call my lemon and peach shells.

Garnet Ball

With my digital memory I take home a garnet ball I now wish I'd put in my pocket, heavy as it was.

Lemon Shell

The world is lemon sherbet.

Peach Shell

The world is peach sherbet too. I gobble it up with concave glass.

Red Rock

A red rock watches me. And I watch it. Subsumed, reincarnated, subsumed.

Golden Striped

Here is a golden striped beauty, soft, so soft.


If I spent forever on this beach, beauty would break me. I would fish and fish and fish. Someone would find me on the far side of morning, belly up, an accidental sacrifice. Would they guess I'd simply been casting for beauty...

Long Island Rocks and Shells photos, by L.L. Barkat.

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Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Serendipity Ripples

Long Island

He hadn't expected poetry. Not from his own heart, hands.

But serendipity brought him to it. Or it to him. Or maybe both to each other. Who knew?

I think of this and I think of how I found Chihuly last week. Glass artist, designer, craftsman. Chihuly doesn't care what people call him; he simply cares that people look...


Finding Chihuly feels like serendipity to me. I don't know why. I found him in a little shop on a rainy day in Sag Harbor. It was the mist and the grey day that drove us there, over ferries, past an island, to that street, that shop. Chihuly himself had set out to be a weaver, but he lost a Fulbright because of a technicality, only to recapture it two years later... this time for glass work instead of weaving. The detour changed his life.

Which is how, I suspect, I found him in Sag Harbor. Or he found me. Who knew? I hadn't expected him just now. But serendipity brought the rain and here he is... and I've been flipping pages, saying "yes" to something about him and his work that I don't yet understand.

Sea at Sunset on Long Island, Chihuly book, photos by L.L. Barkat.

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