Tuesday, December 29, 2009

At Urbana 09

I'm at the Urbana 09 student missions convention in St. Louis, and there's a lot of great stuff going on both in the program and in the bookstore. If you want to watch, you can see many of the plenary sessions online at the free webcast page of the Urbana 09 website. Check out the amazing 15-minute Welcome to Urbana tap dance/spoken word presentation of John 1, Ruth Padilla DeBorst's talk on the movement of peoples, York Moore's abolitionist testimony, the Rahab dramatic monologue and the video clips on the state of Christianity and on human trafficking. Powerful, moving stuff.

My job this Urbana, as at previous conventions in 03 and 06, is to manage the book info booths in our bookstore. That means I roam the floor in a bright orange Home Depot-like vest answering questions and helping people find the books they're looking for (and didn't know they were looking for). We get questions like "Do you have books by Paul Bunyan?" or "What is the best book ever?" or "Um, I have a friend who is wondering if you have any books about how to meet girls." What's always so exciting is to see hundreds and thousands of college students with armfuls of IVP books. Urbana delegates are some of the most motivated, activist, missional, globally minded Christians, and it's fun to see them recommending books to one another and hear them talk about how certain books have changed their lives.

New this year is that we're having author signings in the bookstore and author interviews at our morning bookstore team meetings. Yesterday we heard from Julie Clawson, author of Everyday Justice, and this morning we chatted with Steve Hoke and Bill Taylor, authors of Global Mission Handbook. So far we've had signings with Scott Bessenecker (How to Inherit the Earth), Andy Marin (Love Is an Orientation), and we just had huge crowds for Shane Claiborne (Becoming the Answer to Our Prayers) and John Perkins (Welcoming Justice).

One of the featured books of the day is James Choung's True Story, and as they were making the book plug from the platform, James overheard a student telling her friend, "I reconverted to Christianity because of that book!" James told her, "I wrote that book!" And I was encouraged to hear that this book that I had acquired and edited had been helpful to her and many others in their spiritual journeys. Much of my work is with manuscripts and Word docs as books are being developed, so it's fun to come to conventions like these and see how our books are changing the lives of real readers.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Josiah quotes, 2009

I just discovered a Facebook app called My Year in Status that lets you make a collage out of your Facebook statuses. You can customize it to select your favorite statuses from the past year. I used it to copy and paste all my statuses into one document (over 400 in 2009!), which serves as a nice snapshot and record of my thoughts and doings over the year. And I've been meaning to collect my statuses about funny things my older son, Josiah, has said, but haven't wanted to fuss with scrolling back through my actual Facebook wall. So this app let me pull all my statuses together, and I just searched for Josiah-related ones. Here are things my 7/8-year-old son said this past calendar year:

Wrote: "I, Josiah Hsu, will try to help my family by cleaning my room, help cook the food, warn them when Elijah poops all over the downstairs floor."

Ellen said, "Josiah, go brush your teeth." Josiah replied, "La la la la la - I can't hear you! La la la la la - I'm not listening!"

Josiah said, "I didn't mean to bump Elijah's head on the bed. I meant to drop him on the floor."

Josiah and I went out for donuts yesterday morning. At bedtime last night, Josiah prayed, "I pray for donuts. Ask and you will receive."

Got fettucine alfredo for dinner a few nights ago, and the pan and receipt both said "FETT." I showed Josiah, and he said, "Boba Fett pasta?"

Josiah: "I wish we had a tambourine." Ellen: "We have a tambourine." Josiah: "That you can jump on?"

"Mommy tickles better than you do. But nice try."

Al: "Free pizza! Wahoo!" Josiah said, "You shouldn't be so happy about it, Papa. Somebody had to pay for it."

Al: "When I was a kid, we didn't have goody bags at birthday parties." Josiah: "Was that back in the olden days?"

On 4th of July, asked Josiah, "Want to walk down to Starbucks?" Josiah said, "I think you've spent enough money for today."

Al: "I got some sourdough bread from Trader Joe's for you." Josiah: "That's the kind of parent I like!"

On our fridge is a guide to help kids if they ever need to call 911. It currently reads: "My name is: Josiah. My address is: stupid. I need help because: chickin on the loose."

Josiah, trying to get back to sleep: "Sheep have no effect."

Josiah's letter from history camp: "I feel crazy being in the army. I'm only doing this for money. We played baseball and screeeaaamed. See you in a few days. Bye!"

It's Wave Wednesday of Hawaiian Week at Josiah's day camp, so we suggested that he wear a Hawaiian shirt and shorts. He said, "No way. I am definitely not wearing those dorky shorts."

Josiah: "Either I need to get fatter or I need a belt."

Josiah: "Can we get some of the sizzling grape juice?"

Asked Josiah, "Did they talk about September 11th at school today?" He said, "Yes, it's a sad holiday. Two planes crashed into the Sears Tower and another one hit the Hexagon Tower."

Josiah said, "My rib hurts. Maybe I'm having a girl."

Josiah went to the mailbox in anticipation of getting a new video game. While opening the package, he said, "It better not be a book."

Told Josiah that Rio got the Olympics instead of Chicago. He asked, "Can we move to South America?"

Was playing ping pong with Josiah at a friends' house. He was retrieving a ball and bonked his head on a bar. I asked, "Are you okay?" Josiah responded, "I think I'm going to live."

Gave Josiah applesauce and goldfish crackers (in two separate bowls). After a while, he said, "I don't want applesauce anymore. I keep dipping my fingers in there when I want goldfish."

Josiah, talking about his Narnia videogame: "There's a phonics attack." Me: "What's a phonics attack?" Josiah: "You know, a phonics. The bird that breathes fire."

Josiah: "I want to make a flip book of a chicken dying." Ellen: "How about a butterfly flying?" Josiah: "Okay, a butterfly flying into a window and dying."

Ellen brought back German, Swiss and Russian chocolate. Josiah: "Does it have crickets in it?"

Al has a germy son who says, "Beware the fingers of doom."

Me: "What's leprosy?" Josiah: "When a leopard bites you."

Josiah: "I learned a new phrase from Charlie Brown: 'Great scott!'" Me: "What does that mean?" Josiah: "It means Scott is great."

"It's 32 degrees. It's a water-freezing day."

Josiah: "Do you want a snack?" Danny: "No, we're scientists doing experiments." Josiah: "Scientists need food too. We can't just drink potions."

Got donuts with Josiah. Me: "So if it's $4.00 for a dozen donuts, how much does each donut cost?" Josiah: "Dude, it's winter break. I don't want to do math."

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

If Facebook statuses were really honest

A lot of Facebook statuses are fairly innocuous – observations about life, work, daily activities, current events. Most folks are self-conscious and careful about not disclosing things that are too personal, especially anything that casts them in a negative light. There’s rarely any confession of wrongdoing other than “Jenny is stealing her kids’ Halloween candy.” But what if people really said what was really going on? Then instead of a status like “Mark is hiking the Appalachian Trail” you’d see “Mark is ditching his family and job to rendezvous with his Argentinian soulmate.”

A few years ago I heard about the concept of the Johari window, which organizes people's interpersonal interactions in different categories of people’s self-perceptions and perceptions by others. One category is the “arena,” that which is known to oneself and publicly made known to others, that we see and that others also see. Most Facebook statuses probably fall into this category, stuff that people feel comfortable making public about themselves.

Another category is the “facade” – that which we know about ourselves but is not seen by others. We are selective about what we disclose and edit out the naughty bits. So if we were to pull back the facade, our statuses might say things like “Wally is looking at porn,” "Eliot is visiting a prostitute" or “Carrie just slapped her daughter.”

Even more interesting is the category of the “blind spot” – that which others know about us but that we don’t know about ourselves. It’s hard for us to get clued in on things in this category unless we have trusted friends that let us know what's going on, but this might be something like "Michael is offending coworkers left and right" or "Dwight is totally staring at Pam's chest and is completely creeping her out."

The fourth category is "mystery," that which is unknown to both ourselves and others around us. This might be something like "Britney is acting out because of childhood issues" or "Ted is in serious denial about being gay."

It's interesting to think about Facebook statuses through the lens of the Johari window. Is that status really real or just a facade? What's not being said in a status that might reflect a blind spot or an area of mystery? Integrity, many have said, is who you are when no one's looking. In an age of Facebook, integrity might be having your Facebook status really reflect who you are and not just how you want people to think about you.

(P.S. Just found an interactive Johari window online, but I'm scared to try it.)

Friday, December 04, 2009

Encouragement for aspiring writers

Yesterday morning I was at Wheaton College to talk to English majors and writing students about editing and publishing work. Had a great time interacting with folks and answering questions about the writing and publishing process. One of the handouts I distributed contained the following quotes:

“First of all, if you want to write, write. And second, don’t do it. It’s the loneliest, most depressing work you can do.” Walker Percy

“Writing is easy; all you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead.” Gene Fowler

“Writing is so difficult that I often feel that writers, having had their hell on earth, will escape all punishment hereafter.” Jessamyn West

“There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.” Red Smith

“It should surprise no one that the life of the writer – such as it is – is colorless to the point of sensory deprivation. Many writers do little else but sit in small rooms recalling the real world. This explains why so many books describe the author’s childhood. A writer’s childhood may well have been the occasion of his only firsthand experience.” Annie Dillard

“In general, very little happens to a writer. Now do you understand why we put so much emphasis on artificial reality? Our actual reality is insufferably dull. A Federal Express delivery is far and away the most dramatic event in my day.” Philip Yancey

“I turn sentences around. That’s my life. I write a sentence and I turn it around. Then I look at it and I turn it around again. Then I have lunch. Then I come back in and write another sentence. Then I have tea and turn the new sentence around. Then I read the two sentences over and turn them both around. Then I lie down on my sofa and think. Then I get up and throw them out and start from the beginning.” Philip Roth

“Every writer I know has trouble writing.” Joseph Heller

“The first draft of anything is [poop].” Ernest Hemingway

“Writing is just having a sheet of paper, a pen and not a shadow of an idea of what you’re going to say.” Francoise Sagan

“Writing is no trouble: you just jot down ideas as they occur to you. The jotting is simplicity itself – it is the occurring which is difficult.” Stephen Leacock

“Writing is a form of therapy. Sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose or paint can manage to escape the madness, the melancholia, the panic fear which is inherent in the human situation.” Graham Greene

“The secret of good writing is to say an old thing a new way or to say a new thing an old way.” Richard Harding Davis