Creative Writing as a Public Theologian Degree Update

I got a Satisfactory in my favorite (and super tough) C.S. Lewis theology class. I compared “The Magician’s Nephew” with “A Wind in the Door” and how they both deal with with how personal choices effect creation. I’m (trying to be) satisfied with a satisfactory grade as the professor is very brilliant.

Also that’s when I wrote this short Narnia sequel piece about Susan which I really am proud of: https://katyandtheword.com/tag/c-s-lewis/

I am still in the midst of taking my children’s literature class, which will wrap up in about 5 weeks. It is very fun and exhilarating to be reading and talking about kids books, which I still read to this day. Because, I am a kid at heart. I am still working on writing my own story—though as I hinted at in my last post breaking into children’s publishing is actually the hardest kind of publishing to break into, so I do not know if it’s actually a realistic project or more of a imaginative exercise. Anyway, it’s good to keep practicing writing.

If you find my work helpful please consider contributing to my degree by donating to my go fund me.

D. Min Creative Writing Update

I’m so excited, I’ve gotten my new class assigned and it’s my first choice Writing [for] Children. It will be taught by Melissa A. Butler who is a project leader of Educators Neighborhood for the Fred Rogers Center. I still love to read children’s literature, though I know its actually a super hard field to break into when it comes to writing. I’m also laughing because one of the assignments will be to talk to a children’s librarian–which my husband is one, and of course I know them all so that will be super fun 🙂 Can’t wait for the next part of this adventure.

Support my writing and see more about my journey here: https://gofund.me/70a114f9

Being Human

An experiment in poetry

Thanks to my Doctorate in Ministry in Creative Writing at Pittsburgh Seminary

By Katy Stenta 

The story gets more fantastic

The more we tell it

It gets bigger

Even when we make it more concise

The better adjective, the simple adverb

The timing

All of which can be 

drilled down

to this thing called perfect


But the human being

Exists outside of perfection

There is no perfect time to be human

There is no perfect relationship 

No perfect creation

made by human hands

Humankind works so hard to tell its story

Because maybe if we describe our faith

more perfectly, more people will follow it

Why do we chase perfection? 

Why do we want the feeling of 

having the exact words

to shape how our experiences exist—

Do we not then pretend that our experiences are 

unembodied? 

Do we not want to be lost in a fantastic story

precisely because we have struggled too?

Do we not experience our lives as Science Fiction?

Too technical to explain, too human to let go 

of our essence.

I think I prefer Science Fiction to Perfection. 

My Story & My Writing–Katy

Hello,

I am a pre-Harry Potter Fantasy loving person. I’ve been reading my whole life. I majored in English and History (the Japanese History professor told history like a story) and minored in Philosophy at Oberlin College. I wrote so many papers, that I ended up taking a couple of math classes just to break things up! At Oberlin I co-founded the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall, a sort of co-op for ideas, and with the advent of Harry Potter my sister was able to live at the Hall 10 years later. I also did my Senior thesis on the power of story in folklore, myths and fairytales.

I then went to seminary at Princeton Theological Seminary. I ended up Dual majoring in Divinity and Christian Formation. There I helped pick out the books for “Curriculum and Methods of Teaching, Teaching the Bible in the Church, Children’s Fantasy Literature, and Moral Formation.” There, I realized how formative writers like Tolkein and Lewis and especially Madeline L’engle were to my theology.

I went into ministry, fully loving how my the job changes every single day. However something that someone said towards the end of seminary, that has stuck with me like a blessing, is that a pastor is one of those professions where you are writer who is paid very regularly to write.

When I started ministry, I started doing some twitter support for the LGBTQIA (unofficially) as a pastoral form of support. Additionally as disasters struck, I found myself wanting to share some light or hope. I shared thoughts on “Look for the Helpers” from Mr. Rogers–I wasn’t the only one, but people found it helpful, and Calvin & Hobbes “people would act differently if they looked at the stars more.”

I also missed fantasy and squeezed in being a fellow at Brainery Writers Workshop: Science Fiction Fairy Tales: A Hypoxic Style Writing Workshop – with Dr. Jilly Dreadful featuring authors Daniel José Older, Ellen Datlow and Cathrynne M. Valente. Sadly most of my 1,000s of fantasy books remained in boxes in our small rental.

I also began to be frustrated with the Revised Common Lectionary, which is a wonderful 3 year cycle of working through the Bible. Christians started practicing lectionaries together in 1969. However it carries a lot of baggage–bigotry, racism and sexism, and I was tired of rewriting the resources.

I switched to Narrative Lectionary a couple of years in, and began to write my own prayers and doing my own research. I started canvassing people to help to develop Advent & Lectionary resources. Then my mom completed her Doctorate in Liturgy and resumed church ministry so we have been writing Narrative Lectionary Seeds of Prayer Resources together.

I also started writing resources and worship to be more inclusive as my middle child, Westley, was diagnosed with Autism, ADD, anxiety and diverticulitis, and is primarily nonverbal. I co-founded TrailPraisers Inclusive Worshiping which is currently on hiatus. I’m hoping to restart, but God knows if that will fit anymore. We will see where we land post-Pandemic.

When the Pandemic hit, I was full of feelings and prayers, and I found myself writing fairly prolifically prayers relating to the Pandemic. These resources got a lot of attention and began to be used widely. I began to discern a larger call to public theology in writing.

Currently my three children are 8, 10 and 12. I love writing and I love school. A doctorate in Ministry at Pittsburgh Theology came across my social media in Creative Writing. The logistics seemed–surprisingly possible. It is only two weeks in person, you are expected to be working in ministry at the same time, and my kids have just reached the point of being able to be left for longer. This was especially a concern for my child with autism, obviously.

The only question is financial. My family suffered greatly having just graduated when the first recession took place. We know a lot of people who went back to school when the affordability came into question. We are the last generation who unquestioningly took out whatever college loans we needed to, and had that come crashing down when 9/11 happened our second week of college (we were only dating long distance then). With a disabled child and living in a city in New York, costs are high, and important to meet.

So, I am trying to fundraise. Tuition is $8,000 a year. I will probably get some financial help from my church: that looks to be $2,000 right now. So I am fundraising $2,000 through my writing, and hopefully $2,000 some other way, so that it is a four way split. Half fundraised, 1/4 from the church and 1/4 from the family funds.

So I got to work compiling some more extensive advent resources (thanks to a 1,001 Worshipping Communities grant for a 24hr retreat at home I was able to take the time to do the bulk of the work)–and since I like to start advent early, they start Nov 22nd.

Typically my prayers and resources get hundreds of views a week. If everyone who regularly used my resources put forth $20, math says (yay math) I only need 100 people at that level to reach my first goal. Any help $5-$25 is greatly appreciated. As always all resources can be used and adapted with credit to Katy Stenta

https://gf.me/u/y83935

Donate to PayPal https://paypal.me/KatyStenta?locale.x=en_US Venmo www.venmo.com/Katy-Stenta or Google Pay to Katyandtheword at gmail

Thanks!

Katy Stenta

Small Church, New Church, Old Church, Blue Church: Credo Reflections

“Trust the Process”

Credo is a great program started by Episcopalians and picked up by the Presbyterians to help with clergy health and welfare (emotional, spiritual, physical, mental, financial). Its a process to work, worship and create so that a rule of life can be developed.

This year the Presbyterians are running the first ever early ministry model. (Previously it was only available to mid-career). I was lucky enough to be pulled randomly from the hat to attend. Its a support network to help what is now the overworked life of the clergy today.

I would say, for me, the process was a success. We shall see how the rule of life plays out and whether I can use the accountability tools helpfully.

Here are some interesting things that emerged for me….

1. Many of the pastors there were wishing to start a new church somewhere…

Which makes me wonder, what is that about? Are we prophets of the future? Are we wishing for a system with more pull? Is this what revolutions look like? Or is this how we manufacture hope? What is at the root of this and how does it effect the church in general as we go forward.

2. I also heard that a lot of people wanted to write, really write something, either through a blog or a publication or something. Recently I read a blog (I wish I could find it again) about the fact that pastors are writers who get paid

I personally feel that is true, I write sermons like I wrote my English/History papers (which I double majored in). Writing papers every week in undergrad was a good warm up to solo preaching.

So as we look forward, and as CREDO happens next year, I wonder, what can we do with these amazing revelations.

 

Small Church, New Church, Old Church, Blue Church–the clergy seems to be moving in a similar direction

Especially considering that us Presbyterians believe the Holy Spirit works by consensus 😉

 

 

Ch 7: Angst

Its just a cookbook, I take a deep breath and exhale–careful not to growl this time.

Think about good things…don’t angst out….seriously….is this what living alone for too long means? That everything causes angst?

Good things, Good things.

1) She reads

b) She talks to herself, so she’s crazy, hopefully crazy like me, like in a good way

3…wait was  I counting or going a, b, c….

hmm……seems to be I’m getting more and more confused….

Wait, did she just say her name was Pri?

Ch 6: Waking up

How long did I sleep? I look out the window, no light shines in. I wonder about that. The forest outside was so entrenched that not a droplet of light shone through. I wonder how it is I can see…some light is coming through, but it looks like nothing more than a misty glow.

The candle has guttered, I look at the wick and feel sorry for it.

I should get dressed, but I instead go to the hall, the back of my neck prickles

“Hello? Are you there? Its me, Pri….”

Was that a sigh? Cautiously I look around…nothing.I start to walk down the hallway…trying to keep my elaborate robe tied on, but the silk seems to slip. What is the use of clothing if it can’t stay on I wonder? Frustrated I see the rope for the curtains. Determinedly I grab it and tie it on.

Amazing how small victories can give you confidence. Feeling better, I slip down the rooms seeing what seems to be a study, a ballroom, a music room with many instruments.

Nothing is as well lit as I would like, and nothing feels inviting, so I continue on. Counting the curtains, exclaiming to myself over the decorations. Trying to keep my spirits up.

Oh look, a kitchen!

Ch 5: Looking

Hopefully she slept, I peeked in at her and it seems like she was asleep…but the light startled me, so I only caught a glimpse.

I hope she was asleep.

Otherwise why would her eyes be closed?

I did see that she had brownish/blackish hair, it looked a lot neater than mine. Could I even brush myself if I wanted to? It might feel good to use a brush.

If her hair is dark then her eyes would be….I realize I’m growling

The candle had burned down to the nub…I should have replaced it, but it was too scary.

I couldn’t go into her room.

Focus, focus.

Name, I need a name, maybe if I have a name I can start to define thing.

Maybe then I can look at her again.

Maybe then I won’t be afraid to change the candle.

Talia: Chapter 2

The next morning I wake up,  groggy and with a slight headache. Time to get up Talia Jolie I say, muttering at myself to get up. I find that calling myself by my full name helps me to get up in the morning. Its almost like someone needs me, even though this is seldom the case, so it helps. I roll out of bed and start to do the chores. I start by building up the fire, mother never says anything, but she has been rubbing her hands more and more, and I think her hands are starting to get to her.

I never thought about how old mother was until this year. She had me late, a miracle baby she calls me. She could easily be my grandmother. But she has always been so busy and spritely you would have never known it. She still is very active for her age, but sometimes I see her look off into the distant fields, and I feel like she wishes to run and play but has not the energy to do so. At times like this I feel helpless.

And sure enough, my mother was there, awake looking at the fields. She started away guiltily, I don’t think she wanted me to see her, which means she’s probably been stealing more looks than I think. Sighing I weigh the options in my head, but not feeling particularly brave (or awake) at the moment….I decide to go with the safer question.

“Morning….mother, can you tell me a story?”

Instantly my mother’s face is transformed, animated and alive, she sweeps into the rocking chair that our neighbor made for her a few years ago and grabs her quilt in a queen-like fashion.

“Of course dear, which one do you want today?”

“How about my story?” I say, a twinkle in my eye.

“Ah, such a fairy tale! There I was, wishing and wishing for a child. I blew the dandelions down everyday for summer, and I threw as many crystals into the lake I could find.”

“Did it work?” I asked

My mother looks at me and laughs, “I don’t know…I know that in that summer I did more hoping and dreaming than I ever had before. I knew that I wanted something in my life, something….” Here my mother pauses, I lean in, I have never heard this part of the tale before. My mother shakes herself and continues.

“Well, I wanted you, didn’t I? So magic or not, it worked, as I was saying, a whole summer, an entire summer of dandelions and rocks, and on the very last day of summer, I knew. You whispered in my ear as I slept, and I woke up knowing you had started. And that was my miracle.”

I smiled

            “And then, of course, 10 moons later you were born, red and perfect, and I’ve been thankful ever since.” My mother ends her story in the usual way.

            I look up, there was a soft tapping at the window, somehow it had started to rain in the brief tale my mother told. I looked out the window, and then realized—by the prickles on the back of her neck that her mother was looking too…over her shoulder. Talia looked back at her mother who met her eyes, something blazing in them.

            “You feel it too, don’t you?” my mother made the query as though it was a fact. “Admit it, your being pulled.”

            As soon as she said it, I realized it was true. I had caught my mother looking out the window, because I had been doing the same thing. The restlessness that was in my very soul was the reason. I hadn’t thought of it as restlessness, I hadn’t thought of it as a call to go because…”but I don’t want to leave you”

            My mother chuckled, a rich, full sound with no sign of irony in it. “I know Tally, I know…but I feel it, I feel your need to go and I know its not me who needs the adventure, so I think I must be picking it up from you.” My mother fell silent to these words, hinting at a magic she had never previously had…

            I didn’t know what to say, so I remained silent, a rarity to for me.

            My mother smiled, a slow, sad and beautiful one.

            “Its time Talia, its time to for you to go. I think you need to find, something, I’m not sure what it is, but I know it in my soul. You need to go.”

            “But, why, how? I don’t understand…..”

            “I think you’ve been feeling it for a long time, I think that you need to figure out why you can’t sleep, I think you are attuned to something…and, and I think you didn’t recognize it because it never occurred to you that you could leave. No one ever leaves here, and you love me” Here I felt a light touch on my shoulder “but its time.”

            Thinking furiously, I started to make myself a cup of tea, knowing my mother was right, but uncertain about how to proceed. And my mother walked outside, and stood a bit in the rain, looking comfortable and satisfied as I continue to busy myself in the kitchen. 

Shannon A Thompson

Author. Speaker. Librarian.

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