Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Who Are You? (pt. 3)

So, there we were, a room full of editing professionals, faced with the question of whether or not we liked--or respected--our end consumer: the reader.

Editors are a freaky bunch. They love to think and debate and share ideas and dissect and explore. Get a whole room of editors going and nothing is sacred. At the same time, everything is. At their core, editors recognize--and love--the power of words. Spoken, written, sung from the rooftops--words contain the power to create and cultivate, encourage and empower...or decimate and destroy. These particular editors also love God and His Word. So their drive is work on books that impact lives rather than books that just entertain.

So, what did they say, these learned, insightful, imaginative folks? At first, nothing. They stopped--really stopped--to consider the answer. Editors are great at pondering.

I am, of course, an editor. But I'm also a writer. And I'm an ENFP, which, according to the Myers-Brigg Type Indicator, means I'm basically a Golden Retriever. So no surprise I can't ponder long. Or let others do so. My mind always bounces to the next thing to explore, and I find that's often how you discover answers. So as they pondered I turned back to the white board and wrote: "Who is your audience?"

Responses flew:
  • Predominately female
  • Age range: 34-80s
  • Over 40
  • Conservative Faith/Evangelical
  • Most likely Republican
  • Mother
  • Mostly stay at home
  • Some professional people
  • Men, but not a lot
  • Usually women bought for the male readers
  • Very few in 18-34 age range
From there the discussion morphed into how to reach our current audience better, as well as reaching those beyond:

  • the 18-34 demographic
  • those who aren't overtly Christian but interested in spiritual issues
  • men
  • Post-moderns
  • ...and on and on.
Again, ideas flew. From using technology better and more strategically (e.g., e-books, book readers, online downloads), to reconsidering format (imaginative use of packaging, layout, content), to allowing for open-ended books (e.g., story isn't all wrapped up at the end, leave some questions unanswered). Ideas fairly sizzled through the room.

As I listened, I had--you guessed it--this incredible feeling of deja vu. I'd been in this very dialogue already this year. Twice, in fact. Once at a retreat attended by nearly 100 published authors. The second time at the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) conference. Editors, writers, even readers...we're all struggling with the same issues.

Now, don't hear me saying there isn't a place for books that primarily encourage and entertain. Books that don't ask hard questions, but give the reader a wonderful, wholesome story. I don't think the majority of us want to eliminate those books. Not at all.

But in all these conversations I heard the same frustration of being held back, of not being able to write with authenticity. I'll never agree that Christian fiction--or fiction written to glorify God--should contain graphic language, sexuality, or violence, but I understand the frustration. Writers, editors, and--from your responses--readers want fiction that digs deep, that challenges and pushes as well as comforts and encourages. All of us want to be iron sharpening iron.

So, you say, why don't you all follow Nike's admonition and JUST DO IT? What's holding us back?

Before I answer, I'm curious what you think the answers are. What do YOU think holds publishers, editors, and writers back from writing the kinds of books they want to do? The kinds of books many of you have said you want?

Look forward to your insights!



photoqueen said...

Karen, thank you so much for sharing the conversations you all had at Pub U. It's so interesting to hear the issues and concerns facing publishing today. I guess I'm not the typical reader, because I've been reading Christian fiction since I was 16...and I've yet to hit that 34-80 age range! I really enjoy the more realistic and authentic fiction that I'm finding more often, but I wonder if writers/editors/publishers are reluctant to do more because they're just plain afraid it won't sell. Is that part of it?

Lynn Squire said...

Off the top of my head, I'd say the opinions of others keeps publishers, editors, and writer from writing those deep books.

Digging a little deeper, there is a perception that publishers and editors don't want books that have depth - it might be considered a little too preachy.

Then digging a little deeper, I wonder if, in part, it is because of fear. The minute we share a little too deeply about ourselves, our thoughts, and our beliefs we become exposed to criticism that stabs at those very tender parts. To write a book of depth, that challenges, pushes and moves us past the comfort zone means that we as writers have to do that in our personal lives. We have to think outside the box, touch on the hurts of our lives and our society, and come up with Bible-based answers that aren't always popular.

I think of Francine Rivers. Some of her books have touched many people. They showed great depth and understanding of human nature, yet gave hope and truth. Redeeming Love is still one of the best selling Christian novels. Atonement Child was at times ridiculed because she clearly stood on the principles of life, yet it touched many hearts.

If we want books that move, writers need to not be afraid of writing about things that are not popular and presenting Biblical solutions to a dying world.

Nicole said...

Um, I "think" (because I don't know) that it lies in the lap of publishers. I've heard too many editors express the same frustrations as writers regarding the material that is ultimately published in fiction. So, I would answer specifically it's the money. The tried and true of the specific mainline reading audience will net a passable amount of dollars and secure finances, keeping them in the black. Is there a risk in offending this group? Not if they have enough to read in their own little corner of the market. Secondly, again forgive me: the marketing. If professional marketers can't figure out how to effectively sell novels, how can an author? And why does a potentially ineffective marketing team get a voice in deciding what's marketable fiction? I think there is a chasm between certain pub boards and the actual reading public of Christian fiction. For example, the male fiction readers are definitely out there--and it doesn't matter if women are buying their books for them. They're reading secular novels because they are unaware of all the books available to men in current Christian fiction. Fantasy readers are another group which are rallying for more Christian selections for all ages.
I think there is a certain lack of risk takers with some CBA publishers who don't want to have to bear up under the surefire criticisms of the traditionalists who might pick up one of these books and march back to the bookstore leveling complaints.
And I think the policy of customers getting their money back after reading an entire book before they decide they are offended by it is ridiculous. If this is a real policy, I think it should be decided on a case by case basis, not a blanket policy.
These are my observations after listening to and reading the blogs of professionals.

Anonymous said...

I think there is some measure of safety in "middle of the road" thinking. The cost of birthing a novel is high, and I would assume that publishers cannot gamble on too many books that fall into categories that do not have proven sales records. Sure, there are slots for books that don't fit the norm, but those are generally held for authors whose names can sway the reader when the topic doesn't.

So perhaps the lesson is to build name brand trust before pushing the envelope on subject matter.

Kathleen Y'Barbo

Tricia Goyer said...

This is fresh in my mind because I just did a proposal for a new teen series that could be considered "edgier" than what I've seen in the Christian market. The point of the series is to show the emotional/physical consequences of teens having sex ... It's not enough to tell kids. I think fiction will help to show it. The readers will LIVE the experience with the characters.

I think this is important because I read through DOZENS of compariables--secular books that the teens are EATING UP. The writing is fresh ... and explicit. Some of it made me blush!

I don't want to write explicit fiction with details about the mechanics of sex, but my goal is to dig into the emotions better. As writers, we need to STRUGGLE, and dig deep. Teens and Gen Y aren't going to accept surface level. Yes, it's easy to write some of the same stories we've been telling, but I think to reach this generation we'll need to spill our hearts.

BUT I also think that since publishers are aware of this they will take the leap when they see the right material cross their desks. They know what we know, and I think they are going to be ready when the material arrives.

Lynette Sowell said...

I think there are many intangibles to consider because the book business involves people. Anytime you throw humans into the mix, you can't always anticipate a reader reaction. Intangibles + business = Who knows WHAT will resound with readers?

I think publishers go with what sells, and select work from newer writers who write with *just* enough difference to stand out from the crowd.

I also think we've made a LOT of progress just in the past 10 years. Or go back 20 years and see what was on the shelves. Change, even in an industry such as ours, happens slowly. But I think we're on the right track.

We authors who are also readers need to spread the word about books we love. Word of mouth is the probably one of the biggest marketing tools and it amazes me how many readers who fit the first demographics you listed STILL are ignorant about the variety of Christian fiction available. If the publishers start seeing the sales figures for "the kinds of books" we say we want, they'll start buying more.

Kathy Fuller said...

Terrific conversation. I agree with the other comments. I'd like to add that its also a matter of comfort zone--what's been done over and over and over is comfortable and profitable. Why fix it if it ain't broke seems to be the mantra of the entertainment business as a whole, not just publishing and not just Christian fiction. Occasionally there are break out movies, songs, books, TV shows--those that were considered risky or throw away, yet ended up being big hits. The reason is often nebulous--if there was a formula believe me the industries would have latched on to it long ago.

I think Christian fiction is on the cusp of stepping out of its comfort zone. Readers are demanding it, writers are reaching for it, and publishers are going to have to make a decision--do we play it safe or do we go for it? Is the main objective winning and encouraging hearts for Christ, or maintaining a comfortable bottom line? Will the industry be willing to adjust the product to their audiences' needs and wants? Only time will tell.

Cara Putman said...

Frankly, writing like that is excruciating. The last novel I turned in dealt with miscarriage. Colleen calls it my historical, married romance, women's fiction. I knew it was a thread I had to write, my editor embraced it (though I haven't seen the content edits yet), and it is real life. The gritty, ask God hard questions, kind of life. But it's painful as a writer to go there. In my case go back there, and dig up the emotions, the pain, the questions...but that's what leads to the answers and piece of truth God has revealed to me.

Sharon Hinck talks about the pain that came in writing scenes of the Restorer's Journey (3rd book). It's bleak, dark, harrowing stuff, but the truth and light of God shines through. And it's in those pages that I am challenged in my own faith.

As a reader, I seek those kind of experiences. As a writer, I have to be willing to dig deep, peel back the layers, be transparent (though the reader shouldn't sense me in those places -- just the truth as experienced by the characters).

And the hard part is that each book requires that laying it out, risking, and being vulnerable.
Does that make sense?

Kelli Standish said...

As someone under 34, not a mother, technically savvy, not dramatically religious, and (as some have told me) at least half guy:), I fit just about every criteria for your unreached people group:)

I have a few thoughts to share, simply because I've just read a book in the secular market that has so traumatized me, I might need therapy.

The book was edgy, to say the least. Definitely not "safe" or sanitized. Nothing held back. Written by a prize-winning, much-acclaimed author.

And yet, after I turned the last of the nearly 800 pages, I felt as though I'd had all wind knocked from my lungs. Exhausted. And in need of a full bucket of brain bleach to wash away some of the more horrific and despicable images painted in the story.

This story was grueling, often utterly base, emotionally draining, and for the most part devoid of hope.

And that got me thinking about books in general, whether CBA or ABA, and what I want in a book.

Obviously, as you've mentioned in earlier posts, everyone has an opinion about what makes a Christian book a Christian book, and what makes a good book a good book.

I personally don't care if anyone gets 'converted' in a story. I have an eye-roll-factor chart for books that are too perfect, too preachy, or too over the top with purple prose, hokey terrorist plots, or drippy romance.

I regularly read ABA fiction in just about every genre, and if a story is good, I don't care whether it was published in the ABA or CBA.

But what I WANT, ABA or CBA, is a story that goes beyond a simple mirroring of reality.

There are many books that are mirrors. And mirroring reality has its value.

But then there are books that are beacons. Books that go beyond mere mirroring of darkness, to uncovering glimmers of hope in this life.

They don't soften their portrayals of darkness and the human condition. But they don't let their focus get stuck there, either.

Instead, they dig deeper, to find the jewels of hope and decency in the midst of the muck. And then they paint those colors with vivid strokes.

We all know how dark life can be. But give us something to fight for, to cheer for, give us courage, give us hope, inspire us to be better, greater, more thoughtful, more compassionate, and you have written/published a book that transcends.

Authors and publishers who do this have used their talents to uplift their fellow man, rather than simply remind him how dark the world is.

As I'm sure you've experienced, fear is a powerful current in the CBA. Whether in publishing houses or in the quiet offices of writers across the country.

What if readers don't buy? What if the book tanks? What if your career or publishing house tanks because the books tank?

I'm sure these fears keep many good books unwritten, and unpublished. And I honestly have no easy answer to them.

But what I do know is that I've read books in the CBA that so far surpassed this 800 page "acclaimed" monstrosity I just finished. Not merely in writing quality, but in every other way.

CBA Publishers ARE putting out great stories. Maybe not in the volume everyone wants, but then, it seems to me Jesus does His best work in the backlist, anyway.

Rel said...

I agree with a lot of what Nicole says particularly with regard to male readers.

Although I fit into the age and gender demographic, I'm Australian so no Republican or Democratic vote from me! As an outsider looking in I see a cultural Christian influence deciding what fits and what doesn't. There seems to be a loud conservative Christian voice that pubs obviously listen to (and one can understand why) but in my blogging/reviewing experience people want more than the traditional cookie cutter fiction. In addition, I have been running a book club for over 5 years at my church, with around 20 members. I look for books with substance and bite to energise discussion. As a tiny snapshot of the reading public, I would say only one of the twenty want the "neat & sweet" storyline and yet we are a generally conservative Baptist church.

There is no doubt that a book tackling a significant issue or challenging the way we think will get bad press in addition to the accolades. I hope that isn't holding pubs back.

Thanks for generating discussion, Karen.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for wrestling out this issue with us. I'm encouraged.

It seems to me the main restraint is publisher choice. As some have said--the pubs. appear to go with tried-and-true: authors who are household names, familiar story lines, predictable sales. Those of us offering new material must, of course, be providing quality craft, to have our work considered. And I have received good feedback on craft, but discouragement from publishers on deep subjects. Why would a reader want to read a book that includes family violence or rape? Why? Because a huge portion of the reading public has dealt such issues -- directly or with loved ones. Reading about it in a compelling story that helps a reader draw closer to Jesus is a piece of cake after living it!

This is just one slant and one opinion. The comments about authors needing to risk exposure and criticism by dealing with controversial subjects is certainly true as well. One thing we can all do to nudge change in this, is buy, and spread the word about iron-sharpening books.
Mary Kay

Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

What do YOU think holds publishers, editors, and writers back from writing the kinds of books they want to do?

I think it is the mistaken direction these kinds of discussions take—more e-books, technology, open-ended stories and the like.

Why don't we look at the really successful models out there and see what they did right? Harry Potter for instance. Not small books, and not books that employed any of the divergent techniques suggested by these editors. Yet they clearly reached the 18-34 age range. Why? That's the question I think editors should be answering.

And BTW, this is not a fantasy rant. ;-)

Here's what I observe from my reading of Christian fiction. Much of what I've read lacks a character who is truly engaging—someone I think about as a real person, someone I come to care about and weep over or laugh with.

Consequently, I don't see the doubts and struggles such a character goes through as more than surface deep since the character isn't more than surface deep. It doesn't matter if they're dealing with the realities of life if I don't buy into them.

In other words, I think it is still a craft problem, more than anything.

While we writers worry about not being able to use cuss words or about how much violence is too much or whether ECPA houses are putting too many restrictions on us, we are missing the real deal—we need to write larger-than-life characters that will take readers to those deeper places of spirituality.

That's what I think, anyway. And horrors if editors think it's all about the formatting of a story!


Kristi Holl said...

Sometimes it feels like we are expected (as writers) not only to make back the publishers' investment, but make it back FAST. I publish for children, and back in the 80s when I started, a children's hardcover was considered successful when it kept selling, slowly but surely, over the years, continued to sell on the backlist, had time to win some awards, etc. Word of mouth advertising is supposed to be the best, but there is rarely enough time allowed now for that. Now those same books can't get past many pub boards unless you can attach a stuffed toy, a gel pen, glitter stickers, or an action figure to it. I get tired of the gimmicks, both as a reader/buyer and a writer.
Kristi Holl
Writer's First Aid blog

Michelle Sutton said...

Saw this on twitter so I'm here. What do I think holds people back from writing what they want to write? One thing is money. They need to sell something and edgy stuff is a tough sell no matter how good the story is. But for people like me who have a job, a web design business and a magazine that gives me plenty of income, I don't need to worry about making money. I'd love to create something that would be a best-seller. Everyone wants that. But for now I'm perfectly happy writing to the people who want to read a book that is hard to put down and real. I include what people really think. I take the mask off of Christianity and show struggles how they really are. Young people can identify with this and I've had many non-Christians read my book (and for some reason a lot of Mormons) and they aren't offended at all that I totally show how to be saved Jesus has to be a real friend and you have to know him personally. I find that amazing that I can be that clear and people don't feel preached at. I think it's because my theory is on target. Young readers want books that will speak truth into their lives. I want to continue to do that whether I sell a hundred books or a million. Because if they don't feel my passion as an author, then I haven't gone all out and expressed myself the way I should. That's just my opinion, but I like it. :)

C.J. Darlington said...

I think one of the big issues is money. Let's face it. Publishers need to make a profit. Taking risk in publishing something that isn't tried and true is taking a risk on the bottom line. And in this day and age especially, it's scary to do. Plus the few times they HAVE taken a risk, they've seen it didn't work. Which doesn't necessarily mean it wouldn't work on the second or third or fourth try, but who wants to lose money when you can publish something you know will sell?

I'm sure there's much more to this, including how to market to that demographic that won't go in a Christian bookstore, but perhaps monetary reasons are #1.

Judi "Jlo" Moran said...

Wow, Karen, lots of thought-provoking questions.
I could spend a long time here, because this is the theme of my life and writing: the intersection of Christianity and culture.
Duty calls, i.e. the editing of my book, or I would fully express my thoughts.
But let me just say, this has to happen. And if it can't happen in the Christian publishing world, then we have to move out and beyond.
Mick Silva was willing to take a chance on my book/memoir because he believed in my rawly honest/inspiring story...and he took it to editorial board to fight for it.
However, in a very kind email he explained that, after careful consideration, the board decided it did not fit into their current program.
But, the deal is, I knew if Mick's house didn't take it, I would have to look beyond Christian publishing.
Why? Because I use the word F--- in one scene, with great emphasis: A scene that really happened, in a moment of gut-wrenching despair.
I heard from other editors at Mt. Hermon: Sorry, we couldn't print that word as is...have to change it. Christian bookstores won't carry it.
Mick was the only one who said, after I painted the scene for him, "Yes, I would publish that!"
Long story short, God has led me now in the direction of self-publishing and selling directly on my site when I launch my new look in Jan.
Why? Because I have achieved a hungry readership who know I am one real "cookie". Karen, I have Triple X site owners reading my site, though I clearly share my faith, and then turning in reviews that some post I've written has inspired them or made them think!
This is who I care about, as a writer, Karen. This is who my story will reach.
This is the calling God has put on my life: To see God and the world with fresh in-sight and to share that with others.
And to do that, I WILL include the word f--- in one of the most powerful scenes and chapters in my book.
I so appreciate your post and the obvious questioning and thoughtfulness you bring to the Christian publishing world.
They - we - are lucky to have you!

jamie carie said...

Thanks for this great discussion, Karen! (LOL about the Golden Retriever!!) Here's my thoughts on it:
When I think of us trying to reach people for Christ, trying so hard to get His message out there, I remember an illustration I once heard. It's a picture of this cute, little hamster, and he's busy, busy, busy running on his wheel. He's working very hard at going nowhere. Now picture the hamster's cage in the back of a pick-up truck. The truck is moving toward its destination at 60 mph. The truck's driver has a map (or GPS :) and knows just where he is going. The truck's driver is Jesus, (the GPS could be the Holy Spirit :)!!) and the cute, little hamster is us.

I think sometimes we try so hard to follow God and His leading, whether in our business or personal lives that we forget He is driving the truck! I keep hearing God tell me to just rest in and trust in Him. If He is Lord of my life (I'm in the truck) then He will get me where I need to go. I think publishers are doing a good job of putting a variety of books on the market and it's exciting and fun to brainstorm how to better do our jobs (i.e. sell more books!) but if Jesus is "at the wheel" then rejoice! He has infinite, creative ways to reach His creation and infinite, creative, outside our thinking, ways to make us successful (His idea of success - not ours). I'm sure Paul didn't feel very successful when he was sitting in prison yearning to see his scattered churches. But that's when he wrote the letters that became part of the Bible! And I'm thinking that little boy who gave Jesus the fishes and the loaves wished he could have done more, but that's when Jesus blessed them and increased them till they had baskets and baskets of left-overs!! (I'm getting excited now!!) Let's just take all our human effort (running on that wheel) and hold it out to Him and watch what He will do with it.

Pammer said...

I think it's because they are afraid it won't sell. This fear could be based on current numbers, I'm not sure.
But also with books that wring the heart with stories that dig deep, while it touches many people, it alienates readers as well. Strong books and characters garner strong reactions (good and bad).

And as Christian publishers, we have to hold up to intense scrutiny. If we travel too closely to the world, why do we ask to be set apart? To be seen as separate or better? Because in a larger picture Christian fiction is still the new kid on the block and we are held to higher standards to prove ourselves.

Hopefully we have done that and can now take the leap of faith it requires to publish the "edgier" novels that dig deeper.

marci seither said...

Publishing a book is risky business. If the book is not a sure sell, the publisher is afraid to take the risk on the author's "out of the box vision". What I think it comes down to is not the reader-the writer- or the publisher..it comes down to the book store owners. They are the gate keepers of what they stock on the shelves. It is like the blue haired quilter at the dorcus circle meeting who told me, "But we've never done things that way-ever!" To which my response was "Maybe you should consider that the way things have always done things is wrong, and now would be the perfect time to change." Good thing I'm a lifeguard and know the Heimlich, poor thing almost choked on her dentures.
But the truth is, Christian book stores have a responsibility to their customers. They are not Barnes and Noble where the religious section has the Bible, Jerry Jenkins, and the wicca handbook. They have to rely on a large gift section to pay for their floor space. Seriously, how many men shop at Hallmark stores? and yet that is what the Chirstian store looks like. With more on-line buying power and cross market books sold at Costco, Christian bookstores are closing at a crazy rate, yet they still have a tremendous power over what constitutes "Christian" market. I think book store owners, publishers and writers need to work together to look at how things have always been done and cosider how we can do things differently.

Colleen Coble said...

Saw this over on Twitter! I'm a golden retriever too, Karen. :)

I read mostly general market. I NEVER worry about picking up a book that's "worthy" but what I want is a great story with gripping characters and a riveting plot. It always comes down to characters I care about, striving for something I can relate to. That's what I TRY to write though I'm sure I fall far short of my goals but I keep working on it. And I think that's what editors are looking for too.

So maybe it's just a matter of craft for us--learning how better to tell a great story. I don't think it's digging deeper or telling edgier stories. I think it's telling a real story with characters our readers care about and root for. I never feel held back when writing my fiction. I don't WANT to write graphic language or sex. The classic weren't written that way so let's leave something to the imagination. Frankly, it's BORING. I skip those parts in general market fiction.

Crystal Laine Miller said...

(I'm an INTJ, just so's you know where I am coming from here.)

I don't think the publishers hold all the guilt. They pick from an enormous amount of manuscripts. (I know because I've sometimes helped to pick through them.) I'll be reading along on a manuscript and suddenly--oh, no!--the author's wheels fall off somewhere--and it's not usually a curse word or some scathing romantic scene.

It is usually based in some characterization flaw or plot plop. It needs fixing, but not just a cosmetic thing. It's deeper than that.

Authors have to take responsibility for what they're writing. How do you go deeper? Well, I've heard it said over and over--"quality will out." Okaaaay. What does that mean? Maybe authors need some help from the editors, but the editors do not have time to show what would have made that story better for them--Catch 22.

There are a lot of issues here that sort of seem to put the publisher/editor and author at odds at the expense of the reader. I(the reader) don't want to be told, "this is edgy." I want to read a good story. Period.

Our ACFW organization is relatively new to the scene, but I do think it is filling the gap between the editors and authors. At least I think so. And I also hope that this dialogue continues, as in the past few years I've seen a big jump in the quality of manuscripts I'm seeing, and in the books, too, as a reader/reviewer/sometimes judge.

I don't think we are thaaaat far off. By the way I like Jamie's truck story. Cool.

(If I keep throwing the ball, will you keep chasing it? Goldens are the BEST dogs.Awesome.)

Courtney Walsh said...


I can only speak for myself as a new writer, but I think it's frightening to spend all that time on a book that may be considered risky just because it tells the truth (or has a more authentic feel to it.) Especially when there seem to be so many 'rules' of how to write and what to write... it is quite intimidating to start out trying to find your voice when you're dominated by those rules.

It almost feels like a writer would need to earn the right to really say what he/she wanted to say with his/her work. For instance, write a couple of books that are similar to what's already out there and then you are more likely to have the chance to write something a little more risky. No?

As a reader, I can tell you I am in the 18-34 range and I honestly do not want to read these nicely packed stories all wrapped with a red bow. I hate that. I want to read stories that feel real. Stories that can give me a little bit of a weapon the next time I fall into a similar situation. Stories that really challenge me to live differently.

I imagine there's a group that is simply looking to escape, but I almost feel my intelligence is insulted if, at the end, someone says a prayer and all of the problems simply go away. These posts have really got me thinking... thank you for sharing this stuff!!

Deena said...

Okay, I'm late on this post, but here's my two cents. Basically, I think it's fear.

Fear of being blasted by the Christian community. Somehow, we've gotten our holy wires crossed. We want stories that make sense, tidy up at the end, and do not mirror real life TOO much.

That's not me. I want something I can sink my teeth into, wrestle with a bit. Something that stretches my thinking and expands my boundaries without violating Scripture.

And that last point? Truly, it still leaves a whole lotta room to explore!

But as believers we're too quick to slap a label on a product or on a company, an author....claiming heresy because it doesn't line up with how we think or believe, or salacious because it includes a smattering of how real life is.

Come on, people. Read your BIBLE. Want to tell God He's too telling, salacious, realistic, or is heretical because He doesn't present it as YOU believe it is??

We need to be more patient and think about things before we jump to judgement or rush to conclusions. I learned this lesson the hard way twice this year...and I stuck to my guns both times.

If we as Christians would lighten up and loosen up, we might get some top notch quality reading out of the deal. We need to not be so closed minded that a new idea can't get in, but not so open minded that what we already have falls out in the process.