Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Quaker Fiction

After last week's post on What is Quakerism? my friend Barb Ross asked if I had a list of recommended fiction featuring Friends. Since Speaking of Murder isn't published yet (although it will be, never fear), here's my list.

I have read two authors, who I indeed recommend, and also dug up a couple of others, plus a movie.

Irene Allen wrote a classically cozy mystery series set in Cambridge, Massachusetts: Quaker Silence, Quaker Testimony, Quaker Witness, and Quaker Indictment. The protagonist is an older woman who is Clerk of the Meeting, Elizabeth Elliot. In her quiet Quakerly way, she solves the murder in each book. I enjoyed these books greatly, but be forewarned that they are not thrillers.

I Take Thee, Serenity, by Daisy Newman, tells the story of two young people as they prepare for marriage as Friends. It's a sweet tale, although not a mystery, and if you have never experienced a Quaker wedding, this book gives you an authentic portrayal. Newman has several other titles out that feature Friends, as well.

Phillip Gulley is an author who sets his series about Quakers in a fictional Indiana village called Harmony. The latest book is Almost Friends, with a protagonist who is a Quaker pastor. I think these are also not mysteries.

Quaker Summer is a book by Lisa Samson. I loved the description I found: "Heather Curridge is coming unhinged. And people are starting to notice. What's wrong with a woman who has everything--a mansion on a lake, a loving son, a heart-surgeon husband--yet still feels miserable inside? When Heather spends the summer with two ancient Quaker sisters and a crusty nun running a downtown homeless shelter, she finds herself at a crossroads."

Finally, I found author Chuck Fager, who has published Murder Among Friends, Un-Friendly Persuasion, and others. Fager is a long-time Quaker activist who has also written non-fiction about the civil rights movement. I plan to put his mysteries on my reading list.

A great movie about Quakers is "Amazing Grace," which describes William Wilberforce's efforts to abolish slavery in England.

Let me know if you know of others and I'll add them here.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What is Quakerism?

My protagonist in Speaking of Murder, Lauren Rousseau, is a Quaker. I just happen to be one, too. This means I am a member of the Religious Society of Friends.

I have found over the years that there is a certain lack of common knowledge about who Quakers are. No, we're not the celibate Shakers, nor the Ludditely Amish or Mennonites. Or a guy who markets oatmeal in an old-fashioned hat.

Friends have a long history - over 350 years - and much has been
written about them. George Fox founded the Society of Friends in England, and it soon spread to America.

The branch of Friends that I belong to and the Meeting I attend feature unprogrammed worship. This means simply that we sit in silence together on pews in a beautiful and simple Meetinghouse built more than 150 years ago (photos by Ed Mair). We sit in expectant waiting, listening for a message from the Light.

Friends are a tolerant bunch and, while it is at base a Christian faith, no one is quizzed on their individual belief system. One might be listening for a m
essage from God, another for a message from Spirit, another for a message from within, and another might be mindfully meditating. All are welcome. If someone feels moved to share a message, she or he stands, speaks, and then sits.

That's it. We have First Day School for the children, fellowship and refreshments, and a monthly business meeting. We hold peace vigils as well as social potlucks.

The five Testimonies guide our lives:

  • Simplicity
  • Equality
  • Integrity
  • Peace
  • Community
Quakers believe there is that of God in each person, which leads to the core and strength of the Testimonies. We have no minister because we all minister to each other. We believe in peace and non-violence because we are all equal. Living simply frees us to help others.

Historically, Friends have been rabble-rousers in the name of peace and equality.
Mary Dyer was hung on the Boston Common in 1660 for preaching Quakerism. John Woolman traveled the American colonies urging people to give up their slaves. John Greenleaf Whittier, the poet and abolitionist, was on the building committee of the Amesbury Meeting, where I am a member. Many modern Friends have been conscientious objectors in time of war. See my earlier post on this topic, too.
I came to Friends as an adult. I find that quiet individual worship in community suits me, as do the Testimonies. Being a Quaker seems to suit Lauren, too. It's not for everyone, though. I knew someone raised as a high Episcopalian and he really couldn't handle all the silence. When I visited his church, I couldn't take all the busyness!

Did you know what Quakerism meant? If you have ever sat in silent Meeting for Worship, how was it for you?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Getting Help and Taking a Break

My good friend Julie Hennrikus is active in the mystery-writing sphere and in Boston theater. She works in theater management but is also a terrific writer of short stories (she has one in Thin Ice by Level Best Books, as do I) as well as a mystery novel. We both serve on the board of the New England chapter of Sisters in Crime.

Julie wrote an excellent post recently on "
It's Really OK." She addresses the need to help each other and, occasionally, to take a break, step back, reconsider what one is doing. For a theater, this might even mean closing for a while.

This blog post at Stage Source is aimed at theater people. I think it is relevant to writers, too, and possibly just about everybody.
My experience with mystery writers locally and internationally has been only positive. Published authors help out unpublished. Unpublished help each other. Everyone is so supportive. We might envy another's success while still waiting for our own, but that doesn't mean we won't congratulate them, retweet and repost their announcements, and have them on for a guest blog post at the time of their book launch.

Still, as Julie says, "Asking for help is a si
gn of strength." You going to get more out of your networked contacts if you ask for help instead of sitting back waiting to hear a tidbit of something useful.

As for regrouping, taking a break: for me, when the writing gets tough, when I despair of getting Speaking of Murder ever published, I am sometimes tempted to just stop writing altogether. Then I remember how happy it makes me to create a fictional world. My way of regrouping is to take a break by writing something different. A short story. A blog post. A letter to my mother or one of my sons. When I r
eturn to the book-in-progress, I have a fresher voice and a reenergized muse. I've also started branching out from querying agents to querying small presses, and have not ruled out publishing it as an ebook if all else fails.

Of course, there are times when taking a break is almost mandated. You finally typed The End at the end of the first draft? Let it sit for a month or two. You need some distance to be able to still love it when it's time to get in there and revise the heck out of it.

And for non-writers? We can all use a reminder to ask for help and take a break now and then.
So thanks, Julie, for these bits of wisdom!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

One Year in the Blogosphere

Well, dear Readers, we made it. This blog is just over one year old. While I haven't quite kept up with my once a week goal, I ended up with 59 posts. That was due to my almost daily book reviews while I was recuperating from back surgery in the spring.

Blogger makes it easy to look at stats, and they are fascinating:

I've had almost 7000 page views. That's not much compared to some group blogs, but for a start, well, it's a start. And viewers sat in nine countries beyond the United States (including India and Slovenia).

Google and Facebook were the primary referring sites, while Twitter was the largest referring URL followed by http://travelswithkaye.blogspot.com/ - thanks, Kaye! This makes sense: usually when I put up a new post, I mention it on Facebook and on Twitter.

The most common Search keywords that brought people here were:
  • Edith Maxwell
  • edithmaxwell.blogspot.com
  • mystery story ideas
Almost as many people viewed the page on Firefox as on Internet Explorer, but more than three-quarters were on a Windows system as opposed to twelve percent on a Mac. There were even three views on an iPod.

The most-read blog topics fell into five (sort-of) categories:

I plan to continue blogging on topics relating to Speaking of Murder (book One), Murder on the Beach (book Two), and, of course, writing and publishing. Thanks to everybody who has stopped by. I know how many blogs and feeds are out there, and I really appreciate it.

What would you like to read about in the next year? Send those requests in now!