Here at Cladach Publishing, we’re celebrating twenty years of publishing inspirational books. During the next few months we will reminisce, share bonus content with our readers and followers, let you peek behind the scenes at Cladach (past and future), and offer one-time-only specials.
So much to celebrate!
Looking back, we’re amazed at what God has done—in, through, and with us, our authors, and our books—as we have sought to share stories and other writings that show God at work in our world. We believe now more than ever that God is present and working for good everywhere, all the time, now and forever!
Yes, pain, suffering, and confusion abound. But God’s light shines in the darkness and hope keeps us looking upward and moving forward with expectation.
“Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.” ~Ps. 33:22
“Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness.” ~2 Cor. 3:12
Publishing is not complete until readers have read, digested, and interacted with the book’s contents. The book may hold something different for each reader. They may even glean meanings of their own. The reader plays an integral role in the whole process/picture/purpose of publishing.
For instance, a “blurb” describing a book may appear on the back cover, on bookseller catalog pages and promo materials. An editor, a marketing person, or the author may write these descriptive blurbs. But we have worked so closely with the book’s content that we may not express its benefits with the same freshness as a reader just discovering the book’s treasures and the author’s unique voice and message.
When readers choose to share their reactions to—and interactions with—a book, and post a review, they often describe the contents and benefits better than we have done. The newest AGATES Book of Poetry release—I Cry Unto You, O Lord by Sarah Suzanne Noble—has prompted readers/ reviewers to articulate their responses in words that I wish I had thought of myself! For example, in these comments recently posted on Amazon:
“I was so fortunate to find this book at a time when I was going through an absolute low. Not only did [Sarah Noble’s] words bring me comfort and healing during this time but it made me feel like I’m not alone in this turmoil. She covers so many of the intricacies within grief, mourning, depression, loss, struggle, and pain. Her words create this powerful imagery that also shows the possibility of something truly beautiful coming from such dark times.”
“I wasn’t sure what to expect while reading this book, particularity because I am not in a time of lamenting in my life. What I discovered, though, was that it helped me realize how fortunate I am right now not be be in a place of despair, but also recognize how friends in my life may be and how this book would be powerful and helpful. Most importantly, this book emphasizes how in all phases of life, Christ is present and living and how His father, and ours, is clinging fervently to us.”
Susan Jenkins writes:
“When I first held this book in my hands, I turned to the table of contents and was immediately engrossed in the extensive scope of its poems. Hard subjects are included in the segment of PAIN, such as Migraines, Suffering, Crush, Wail and Stiff Neck. The author bravely addresses each topic, and in a gentle approach that, I believe, brings a sense of healing to the heart and mind. The other three sections—BEAUTY, CHRIST and WONDER—are all as descriptive, encouraging and even playful at times, speaking to the interior of the reader’s very soul.”
Bethany McKnight-Kamau writes:
“Sarah manages to express the total range of human emotion with a heart that is continually bowed in worship. The images that she creates through her words paint beautiful pictures of pain, disappointment, gratitude and hope. Beautifully written!”
This never fails to bring us great satisfaction: to see a book go full circle from the author’s experience to the reader’s experience. From insights and observations that captured the writer’s imagination, heart and mind—to words presented artfully on the pages of a book, reaching readers and capturing their imaginations, hearts and minds!
Because I value the gift, solace, and challenge of poetry, I have started collecting quotes that help illumine the process and purpose of poetry. I’ll add to the list as I find good ones, from both historical and contemporary sources. Here is what I have so far:
“…the music of the soul.” ~Voltaire
“…the art of uniting pleasure with truth.” ~Samuel Johnson
“…the universal language which the heart holds with nature and itself.” ~William Hazlitt
“…[that which] makes my body so cold no fire can warm me,” [and makes me} “feel as if the top of my head were taken off.” ~Emily Dickinson
“…not the assertion of truth, but the making of that truth more fully real to us.” ~T.S. Eliot
“…the breath and finer spirit of knowledge.” ~William Wordsworth
“The best craftsmanship always leaves holes and gaps in the works of the poem so that something that is not in the poem can creep, crawl, flash, or thunder in.” ~Dylan Thomas
“Make a poem that does not disturb the silence from which it came.” ~Wendell Berry
“Through poetry, [we] can inquire about the world and [our] place in it…. It is a communal form of inquiry directed towards discovering universal truths.” ~Nayeli Riano
“Poetry is, to me, the art of putting the NOW into words.” ~Gary Haddis
“Poetry calls upon us to probe our deepest emotions and longings.” ~Sharon Olds
“A poem begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness.” ~Robert Frost
“People who pray, need to learn poetry.” ~Eugene Peterson
“To elevate the soul, poetry is necessary.” ~Edgar Allen Poe
“A good poet tries to lead you into universal experience by leading you into a shot of concrete experience–one flower, one frog…That’s what it takes to pull you into the depth of everything.” ~Richard Rohr
“Poetry, like faith, can look at the back as well as the front of reason; it can survey reason all round.” ~Charles Williams
“Poetry, in capturing the moment, captures the soul.” ~Mary Harwell Sayler
“A poet is somebody who feels, and who expresses his feelings through words. This may sound easy. It isn’t. A lot of people think or believe or know they feel—but that’s thinking or believing or knowing; not feeling. And poetry is feeling—not knowing or believing or thinking.” ~E.E. Cummings
“In poetry the words are the body and the ‘theme’ or ‘content’ is the soul.” ~C.S. Lewis
“A poet is a man who is glad of something and tries to make other people glad of it, too.” ~George MacDonald (in his novel, At the Back of the North Wind)
“What draws us to poetry is its ability to connect with us by burying ideas beneath the mere words written. Subtext is the magic that keeps us coming back. But in order for the magic to work, the text above the subtext must always remain somewhat ambiguous.” ~Greg Boyd (in regard to biblical poetry)
“To me, that’s the gift of poetry—it shapes an endless conversation about the most important things in life. … Reading poems can help bring clarity and insight to emotions that can be confusing or contradictory.” ~Caroline Kennedy
In my mind, a publisher distributing books is like a farmer broadcasting seeds. We send them out in every direction, hoping they fall on ready, prepared soil that will receive the message and take it to heart.
This wintry time of year, seeds lie dormant in the ground waiting, sealed. When days grow longer and warmer, the seeds will awaken, sprout and eventually produce leaves and fruit.
Same with books. You may buy a book or be given one, but the season of your life isn’t right yet. The book sits on a shelf, or under a pile of other volumes—or a list of Kindle files—you plan to read sometime. Then one day you pick it up, or click it open, and start reading; and you marvel that these words are exactly what you need at this time of your life.
Casting/sowing seeds or books takes faith. A Christian publisher must believe that these books, which contain kernels of life-giving truth, will be carried by the Wind of the Holy Spirit. And when prepared personal soil opens to them, we pray that their message will be watered by the Living Water. The resulting fruit will be minds and hearts growing and encouraged to flourish in hope, wholeness, spiritual insights, and joy.
So I choose the mindset of an under-gardener. My Father is the Gardener. By his grace I’ll do my part. His is the overall plan, purpose and power. The resulting fruit cannot be fully seen or measured this side of Heaven.
Then, how can we fail? Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must lick my finger and hold it to the wind.
As a publisher, I love to hear stories of how our titles have found their way into every corner of the world and into the hands of readers. I occasionally hear from authors with stories like the following.
“Last night in the Shelter an ultra-orthodox [Jewish] man — with a long beard and dressed in black — about our age checked in and wanted to talk to John and me about the Israel Trail. He was not in the usual age category of hikers who stay at our shelter, and it is unusual to find an ultra-orthodox walking the Trail. He’s from England, and turns out he already read Walk The Land in English and even quoted bits of it. Now he plans to walk the Trail for a few days and had some specific questions about water, sleeping, etc. After talking for about 45 minutes, John asked him what he thought about the spiritual parts of the book. He answered diplomatically that we had our differences. But it was an interesting conversation and contact.”
“An old friend back in high school found me on Facebook and we got together for coffee. She told me that she was attending a women’s conference in Texas a couple of years ago and Scandalon was offered as one of the books to buy. She bought it and then realized that it was me who wrote it. As it turns out, she told me that her parents didn’t allow her to attend church back in high school, but she came to my dad’s church once with her next-door neighbor. As a result of that service she became a Christian. A few years later, she married a pastor and has been a pastor’s wife for decades.
“The second story is from one of my former students in southern China, Muti. Muti wrote me recently and told me he was walking along a street in Hong Kong, and on a shelf outside a bookstore was Scandalon. He talked with the bookstore owner and she told him she liked the book because of the stories about China. So, of course, he bought a copy.”
Whether they find their way to Texas, Hong Kong, England, or Israel – What a joy and privilege to publish these books.
I received an email from someone who casually commented that Cladach is a “boutique publisher.” That struck me as a fitting descriptor of what we hope to offer to our authors, customers and readers.
What does the word “boutique” bring to your mind?
These words come to my mind: Unique, Hand-picked, Entrepreneurial, Personal, Artsy.
In my mind I picture many of the shops I’ve walked into while sightseeing and browsing in charming, coastal and mountain towns. These places offer something that WalMart, as predictable and cheap as it may be, can’t. As you step in the welcoming entrance, all the senses are soon pleased. You breathe the aroma of potpourri, and you’re enticed by complimentary samples of coffee, herbal tea, or truffles. Beautiful music plays unobtrusively in the background. Color, artfully arranged merchandise draws your eye and causes you to “oooh” and “ahhhhh.” You feel a sense of appreciation for the evident care that went into selecting the articles of clothing, gift items, handmade pottery, and other specialty items. You assume this boutique shop is an expression of the owner’s taste, and if you find their style appealing, you have a sense that you can trust their choices of items offered. You may think, “I’m glad I could experience this place! I want to take something home with me to remember my stop in this little town,” or perhaps, “I want to buy something to take back to my friend or family member, just to share a bit of this experience with them.” You may find the items offered so unique that you feel you must buy something, because you may regret it later when you are unable to find this particular, pleasing item again. The shop owner, who may even live upstairs, engages you in conversation. When you complete your purchase and walk back out onto the sidewalk with a custom-printed bag in tow, you have a smile on your face and a spring in your step.
Cladach is a boutique publisher in the sense that we want to offer an alternative to over-hyped, mass-produced, predictable books that cram the catalogs and warehouses of huge publishing conglomerates. We are picky and look for style that is artful, content that is meaningful and might give you an experience outside the box. We can offer ingenious, personal, one-of-a-kind books by authors both “down home” local and fascinatingly cosmopolitan. We can try new trends without being faddish. Quality matters to us and reflects our personal convictions. We hope our books give you an opportunity to step off the trafficky, noisy street and breathe deeply of heavenly scents; taste morsels of truth, goodness, and beauty; and find delightful, soul-lifting discoveries.
I hear writers bemoan the demands and distractions in their days (including technology) and how hard it is for them to achieve balance in their lives. Perhaps you’ve felt that, too. You’re working at the computer and think you’ll just check Facebook for a few minutes. An hour later, you wonder where the time went. Or you hear the musical tone that tells you new emails or text messages have arrived on your cell phone. You were just about to focus in on the theme of a blog post you’re preparing to write. You touch your phone screen, read the text and one thing leads to another. Let’s see, where did that inspiration, that thought, that focus go?
I ought to read more, pray more, call so-in-so, go shopping, attend those meetings, deep clean my house/office, sort through papers, watch those recommended movies, re-decorate my house, exercise more … while tweeting, blogging, posting, submitting copy to editors.
So, how do we achieve “balance”?
Or, is that even the right question?
I got help on this issue a few days ago when I attended the “Writers on the Rock” Christian writers conference in Lakewood, Colorado, as a workshop presenter. Happily, I had opportunity to go to a session taught by Allen Arnold of Ransomed Heart Ministries. “Balance isn’t the key,” he told us. “God wants us to write—not for him or about him—but with him. This leads to a wildly unbalanced life. Let other things fall away.”
Demonstrating his teaching, Allen presented a creative, God-breathed message that brought clarity to my mind and both piercing and encouragement to my heart. In fact, the heart was his theme.
“Infuse Your Creativity with Heart” was his topic. “Nothing great was ever achieved without great heart,” stated the workshop blurb in the conference program. “Yet writers often become disheartened, discouraged or overwhelmed” (that’s where I started this post, remember?) “and when they do, their stories slowly begin to die.” Allen’s workshop promised to tell us “how to discover the truer you, consecrate your creativity, and feast on hidden Spiritual Manna.” He delivered on that promise.
A tall man with a joyful smile and eyes that seem ready to laugh with you or cry with you according to your need and the Lord’s leading, he said, “God cares far more about the story you’re living than the story you’re writing. Live well. Then write well.”
Does living well mean keeping up with everything the world, and even the church, often tells us we should keep on top of and keep “in balance?”
“You can’t write a better story than you’re living,” Allen Arnold states. “Nothing is more important than how a story was born—what your heart is like at the time of writing. … Your writing changes when it becomes about presence over productivity.”
If writing and connecting with readers to encourage them, lift their sights to Jesus, come alongside them, instruct them in the living Word, bring them hope through a well-told story, is what gives you life … then this may be what the Lord is calling you to do; and to live out this calling, you will have to let some other things fall away.
Tend to your heart. Then write and connect and live a “wildly unbalanced life” in—and flowing out from—the presence of Jesus.
Update: I recently got Allen Arnold’s book, The Story of WITH : A Better Way to Live, Love, & Create. I recommend it! ~ C.L.
We shivered in ski jackets on the beach in January. With my son David and his family, I was walking a stretch of Long Island Sound’s northern shore.
A shrub-lined, curving trail took us over a hill and down upon a tumble of boulders, where we met an unexpected sight: a fit young man bouncing his seat-less bike from one precarious, rocky perch to another. He was focused, concentrating, balanced in spite of what seemed insurmountable odds. To the music of salty wind, lapping waves, laughing children, and calling gulls, he worked silently.
David continued up the trail with binoculars, intent on birding. The children explored shells and driftwood. My daughter-in-law, Hannah, and I stood watching the cyclist.
He hopped off his bike and looked our way.
Hannah called to him, “Are you training for something?”
Without hesitation he answered, “To be a better man!”
Taken aback briefly, Hannah blinked then said, “God bless you!”
“I’m a stuntman,” he explained. “Just came out here to practice.”
He returned to his balancing-act practice. Hannah and I enjoyed the show a few moments longer then hurried to catch up with the family. But the image of someone accomplishing—with apparent ease and grace—something that to me seems impossible, has stayed with me.
Like my grandchildren, since childhood I’ve loved exploring beaches, forests, rivers and meadows. In those places my imagination soared. If I had a book with me, all the better. Good stories opened a world of possibilities. Early I dreamed of writing a book myself. But in my child mind it seemed impossible. How could anyone choose and balance and fit together so perfectly that many words, to make characters and places come alive, to create meaning so believable and absorbing? To me such a process held as much mystery as the thought of God creating the flowers in the meadow and the fish in the creek. But he did. And people do.—They create stories and poems and write books.
I found out later in life, just as the stuntman on the boulders had no doubt learned, that such talent and achievement requires diligence, work, and passion.
Years ago, as I was preparing my first book for publication, I felt as if I was trying to balance two narrow wheels on steep, slippery boulders, and I felt dizzy and inadequate. One night, as deadlines approached, I cried to my husband, “I can’t do it! This is too hard.” He just hugged me and prayed for me.
The next morning I woke with new courage. The book came to be and has found readers—opening windows of possibilities to those readers—around the world.
The stuntman probably started bouncing his bike on the pebbly beach and the uneven, rocky trail before he tried to mount boulders. If you have the passion and the vision, then the way of carrying out that vision will come clear. Maybe not all at once or as easily and quickly as you would like; but the path will open to you and the grace will come, as you practice, learn, and keep trying.
Along the way you will have the opportunity to pursue an even greater purpose. Like the stuntman on the beach, you can say, “Yes, I’m in training—to be a better person”: a person who listens to the wind, takes time to dream, look for birds and seashells, and speak from the heart.
A few years ago my husband and son and I were traveling through several regions of France. We spent one night in a farm house on the edge of a misty, green village of Brittany. We had walked through grand cathedrals in large cities. But here our host gave us the opportunity for a private tour of a small, rustic local chapel.
A diminutive, sweatered Breton woman took us into the dimly-lit chapel. She explained in detail the colorful stained-glass windows made in centuries past by artisans from Italy, Spain, and Germany. (Our son spoke French, and so through him we could understand and communicate with our guide.) Each window told a story from the Bible and church history for the country parishioners who, in olden days, could not read the scriptures for themselves.
You could tell the historic chapel — still very much in use today — was built by Breton ship builders, our guide explained as we walked down the narrow nave, because the ceiling was curved and ribbed like the hull of a ship. Traditional craftsmanship also showed in the wooden carvings — displayed high above the chancel — representing the Trinity and each of the apostles.
Inside the village chapel we visited in Brittany
Surrounded by such reverential art, my eyes were drawn again and again to one particular piece — a wooden carving of “God the Father.” How had the artisans captured such a look of love, such a demeanor of all-power, all-knowing, undauntable gladness? He was depicted sitting on his throne. His arms were outstretched and holding in front of him Jesus, also carved in wood, but in a smaller scale.
The devout Breton woodcarvers depicted the Father holding Jesus out to the world, offering the supreme Gift. I could almost hear the voice from Heaven say, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased” (Matthew 3:17).
Truly, God offers us his Christ to become our savior, our sacrificial lamb, our friend, our example, our victory, our hope, our way to eternal life.
We receive him. He changes us. And we begin to ask, “What should we do about a lost and dying world?”
The Father answers, “Show them Jesus. Hold him out for the world to see.”
Who is this Jesus we are to show the world? He’s not a statue for us to display. “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation” (Col. 1:15, NRSV). He came to earth as a helpless baby, lived an earthly life, and suffered death for us in order to give us the gift of his life, his Spirit, his indwelling presence.
“He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross” (Col. 1:18-20, NRSV).
I pray, “Father, fill us with your love, your power and your joy that we may hold Jesus out to a needy world through our faith, our words, and our actions.”
And that must be the underlying reason we publish books and hold them out to the world. To show them Jesus.
A good author is someone who has a burning desire to communicate through written expression, will pay the price to learn the craft of writing, will apply themselves to the process of writing, and will always keep their readers in mind. A good Christian writer loves the Lord, loves words, and loves people.
They can clearly answer the reporter’s questions:
Who: They know for Whom and to whom they are writing.
What: They have a clear focus and plan for what they are writing.
Where: They have a place to write and regularly “apply the seat of their pants to the seat of the chair” with pencil in hand or hands on keyboard.
When: They have a regular time to write and also have learned to snatch the moments and ideas as they come.
Why: They know why they are writing. A writer’s motives may vary: money (dream on), fame (rare and elusive), satisfaction, to scratch the itch (they can’t not write),… Or, they relate to what the Olympic runner, Eric Liddell ‘s character said in Chariots of Fire: “God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.”
If God has truly gifted these writers to write for Him, then their writings will give pleasure to readers also. From their writings readers will gain inspiration, courage, hope, understanding, insight, help.
These Christian writers have taken to heart Hebrews 12:1-2.