Healing Falls, International Bestseller

Thanks to family and friends, Healing Falls hit the bestseller list during its Canadian launch at McNally Robinson, Winnipeg, on Friday, Aug. 17. Sales were second only to Crazy, Rich Asians that week, which says something for crazy, rich Mennonites. It was standing room only, and everyone responded warmly to my concerns for women in prison, the way we’re punishing them and injuring their children, condemning them to repeat the cycle.

The following weekend I presented at the Decatur Book Festival, GA, and was amazed to see classmates all the way from Congo in what turned into a mini-reunion.

The novel’s publication in 2018 coincides with thousands of children separated from parents detained at our southern border. It was inspired by six years volunteering in women’s prisons and resonating with mothers addressing their issues in rehab, but suffering the loss of their children, some permanently.

I, too, was separated from my family as a child during revolution in Congo,  not knowing if they were safe or alive.  Rebels surrounded the airport and my brain was flooded with toxic  fight-or-flight hormones. This is what we’re exposing separated children to, an effect that can lead to lasting brain development delays.

This effect was, in part, why I entered Celebrate Recovery, a Christian 12-step program, which I then took into women’s prisons. It was to address co-dependent/relationship issues, which made me both needy for, and afraid of, connection. What the women in prison taught me was the distilled 12 steps: I can’t, God can, I’m going to let him. It was a place of surrender and peace.

I found it a lot easier to talk to Canadians about the need for US prison reform, but am feeling freer with Americans, following great interviews by Tom Flannagan on WFSU/NPR, and Libby Giesbrecht, on Golden West Radio, CHVN. Also, McNally staff  did a great job of compassionate promotions with introductions, posters, flyers and ads.

I’m overwhelmed with gratitude and hope for real change in our criminal justice system. On November 18, join us in a local author festival at Barnes & Noble in Tallahassee, and on January 12 come participate in a restorative justice panel at My Favorite Books, also Tallahassee. Please join us as we envision meeting the needs of victims and perpetrators while proposing restorative justice reforms for our criminal-justice system.

 

 

 

 

Return the children

I woke last Saturday in a panic for children ripped from their parents at the border, some being flown far away. I too had been separated from my parents during the 1964 Simba Revolution in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It has had long-lasting effects. Triggered by sounds and images of terrified children at our southern border, I had a brain freeze at work just last Friday.

The familiar, recurring brain shutdown rendered me helpless, incapable of responding to multiple stressors as Senior Editor at the Florida Department of Health. I have experienced what pediatricians call toxic stress from being separated as a child from my parents, and resulting in disrupted brain development.

Dr. Colleen Kraft, president of the American Academy of Pediatricians said on CNN (in an article by Catherine E. Cholchet, June 16, 2018), “the resulting toxic stress is prolonged exposure to…fight or flight–hormones–and then inflammatory hormones. In a very young child that disrupts brain development.” This can result in developmental delays, or later in life, chronic health issues.

As an eight-year-old away at school in 1964, I heard the rescue plane and ran for the airstrip, anxious to be flown back to my parents, not knowing if they were safe or alive. In the chaos (massacred priests, terrorized nuns at a nearby mission), I was called back sharply. “There are rebels surrounding the airstrip with guns and arrows. We have to wait for a car.”

We escaped and I was reunited with my parents in a UN refugee camp. But the following year, I was again separated, sent to boarding school in Kinshasa. There, my good brain failed me again and again. I could not learn piano or do math the way I once had. I was helpless, melting down in puddles of tears. This failing brain function, an alarm response to stress, has followed me all my life.

I entered a 12-step program for co-dependence and “took the message to others.” During six years volunteering in women’s prisons in and around Tallahassee, I resonated with mothers separated from children. Some gave birth in shackles, a law struck down as inhumane in Florida in 2012. Others had to give up their babies against their wills, or attempt to retain custody while behind razor wire–an almost impossible task. And one covered recently by ABC News concerning an immigrant mom who lost her effort to regain her son given to US parents. This happens to US citizens in prisons too.

I wrote my first novel, Healing Falls (2018, available on Amazon) from that place of legalized suffering. Yet weekly, I entered the state prison and saw women training service dogs, kept in crates at the foot of their beds. Why not prison nurseries? In our detention centers, why not family facilities like the UN provides?

I have learned there already exist nine prison nurseries in the U.S., the oldest dating to 1904, Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in New York. In my novel, the chaplain and a creative inmate envision just such reform for a state prison in Florida.

To save innocent children long term brain damage, we must reunite US-kidnapped children with parents who’ve committed no crime in seeking asylum from brutal regimes. Let’s do the right by ending the practice of separating them from parents at the border—and in our prisons. Let’s agree, families belong together. Even if it is in community facilities, while working out their problems.

If you’re in the Atlanta area Labor Day weekend, please join me as I read from and sign  my novel at the Decatur Book Festival, Emerging Writers Tent, Saturday, Sept. 1, 2:30 p.m.  Faith Eidse, Ph.D. author of Healing Falls, faithleap7@gmail.com

Like a Mighty Wind

grave00“…they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind…” (Acts 2: 1-2, KJV)

This happened at my father’s graveside. Just as we lowered his plain pine box into the ground, a strong gust nearly lifted us off our feet. My nieces on the opposite side said they thought they’d be thrown into the grave with Grandpa. My niece behind me shivered. “What does it mean?” I asked. “I want to get closer to God,” she said, and I agreed.

The power of that gust declared a sacred ground that I never want to leave. It echoed the power that propelled my parents to Congo where Mom delivered vital medicines, and emptied leprosy patients out of quarentine, while Dad and his team completed a Bible translation into Chokwe. He returned to Canada to accredit and expand Steinbach Bible College, and publish his dissertation research, The Disciple and Sorcery. The anthropological study of witchcraft, included the Christian’s effective response to the fear and temptation to use it against enemies.

These were just the peaks of my Dad’s amazing life. The Holy Spirit seemed to be empowering us to accomplish more than we could ask or imagine. What is that for you?

For me it has been self-publishing  my first novel, Healing Falls–and it’s positive reviews in the local paper and on Amazon.com. The first, by author Donna Meredith, and the second by nephew, Rev. James Rissler, call the novel transformative and thought-provoking. And how can I forget the cover blurbs from authors Michael Morris and Nina Sichel, calling it visionary?

The journey of self-publishing once looked daunting, but now I see it gradually unfolding. What is your mountain? Can you feel the gust that will lift your feet up that rocky road? Trust it, believe in it.

Faitheyes

“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not see.” Hebrews 11:1

Tonight I am in the process of publishing my novel, Healing Falls, a six-year gestation of writing, editing and revising. The last two were spent sending the manuscript to friends to read, then revising and soliciting agents and publishers.

What I discovered was that publishing has changed in the intervening years. I would either self-publish or pay someone to do it for me. It left me weak-kneed at times, but at last I can see bright city lights, my finished book on a bookshelf soon. I created an imprint that reflects my hope and echoes my WordPress blog, Faitheyes.

Can you see with faitheyes the city only visible by hope? What is your dream and waking dream? Are you creating, drawing, painting it real? I often ask myself, if I’m walking by doubt or faith.

IMG_20180312_225745.jpgThe power unleashed by Jesus’s resurrection, drove his followers to spread the good news around the world, and changed history forever. Do we still have a grip on that faith? Or has doubt invaded?

The women inmates I met during six years volunteering inside, cling to the old rugged cross. It is the wounded cross that has healed so many. And their hard-won faith inspired a transformation and change in me, to live by faith and not by sight.

May hearts and minds be changed towards prisoners because of their faitheyes. All are redeemable, and their greatest joy is reuniting with children and mending broken families. It’s what the good shepherd does best–heal broken hearts.

 

 

Epiphany

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Epiphany. A sudden break-through, God revealed to wise-women—and men. It will come in the most unexpected ways. That dry desert will spring a fountain, that gnawing sorrow will be touched by an unseen presence, a healing hand.

The word becomes flesh. Or as James Joyce saw it, the flesh becomes word. As you sketch or write or sew, you change the bread of every day living into permanent art. You become an artist-priest of the eternal imagination. Your daily groaning turns into a broken hallelujah. Or, like my cousin Mary Ann Loewen and daughters Hannah and Monique, you quilt a full cantata.

It came for me on Epiphany eve eve, an email from a publisher requesting my novel manuscript, Healing Falls. I had been seeking an agent or publisher for two years, had made my writing friends read and critique it, and had started formatting my manuscript in CreateSpace, prepared to self-publish on Amazon.

The writing process had started  in 2012, after news that Florida’s inmates would no longer have to give birth in shackles. By then, I had joined friends taking a 12-step program into prisons, and knew the humiliation women experienced giving birth in chains.

It was legalized suffering the way these young women had to give up babies against their will; or try to maintain custody from behind bars; or open letters detailing how a child had been injured or even killed in another’s care. The chaplain in my forthcoming novel, observes that the state prison has a service dog program. Why not a nursery?  She finds an artist, a young inmate mother with the same vision, and together they turn art to praise, the flesh made word.

Soon, I will know when this novel will be launched. I can’t wait to share it with you.

 

Streams in the desert

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43: 19).

Join me in claiming this promise as we enter shorter days, longer nights. The wasteland invades my sleep; a novel manuscript still seeking an agent and publisher.

To push it away, I joined the choir and am learning to sight read alto all over again, listening to strong voices surround me, and learning from a great choir director, “Support but sing softly, hit those notes confidently, watch me.”

How did this happen? I asked a choir member for help learning music for a friend’s wedding, and she said, “I’ll help you at choir practice. We have a great director. He’s good at teaching us.” After practice I gave her the words, but she said, “We have time.” We do, and she’s right, I am learning again to deliver any song as a gift.

This is bringing back all the singing I used to do with my parents, sisters, and school choir mates, though they are far away. Plus, I am surrounded by flowing sopranos, altos, tenors and basses. I find I  love these people, and they love me. This is my way in the wilderness and streams in the desert.

Rejection

Does rejection still hurt, or have you found a way of dealing with it? As a novel writer seeking an agent, I keep remembering that Robert Persig’s classic, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, was rejected 121 times by publishers. I keep an Excel spreadsheet of submissions and rejections, and still inadvertently send to the same agency twice. I tell myself, after the next rejection, “I just sent my query to the wrong person.” But sometimes, I hang my hat on one particular agent at one specific agency. I had written from my heart and anticipated a full-throated acceptance. That rejection, when it comes, can spin me down a dark hole. The publishing industry, and other writers, advise staying focused on my craft. Write the next novel in the series. I research self-publishers and am pursued by them. I could self-publish for less than $900 or more than $5,000, or even $10,000. I could e-publish for “free.” (Afterall, what is my writing worth?) I could stop querying and stop getting rejected. But for now, I keep sending out my queries, and I imagine that one day all those who rejected Healing Falls will be sorry.

Truth is…

Truth is… What many writers seek. Hard to speak in a culture of lies. Elusive when our leaders glorify war. There’ll be no more of that in the presence of Hiroshima survivor Setsuko Thurlow. She won’t let us. She’s preparing to accept the Nobel Peace Prize in December, on behalf of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. It couldn’t come at a better time, with the U.S. and North Korea threatening nuclear war. Thurlow reminds us that nukes incinerate, melt and carbonize bodies. She watched a whole city of bodies melting, including her nephew’s. And she wants Canada’s Justin Trudeau to sign the UN Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty.

Meanwhile, the US has failed to pass a bill to ban bump stocks. It’s going nowhere, even after Vegas. We’ve been assaulted back to the stone age.

As Isaiah (4:2) reminds us, our highest calling is to “study war no more.” Yet we flounder, barely managing to ban military-style assault weapons in Maryland where 20 school children had to die first. (Did you know one? Did you see her playing the piano and singing?)

Now conceal, carry is about to pass in 50 states, even for violent offenders, forum shoppers (that is, buying weapons in forums where they’re not prohibited). Our president threatened to drag us into nuclear war, while his planes were ready to fly him above the mushroom cloud–while we melted. We hover on the edge with Pence warning troops, “Be ready now more than ever.”

I want to thank a scribbling woman or two for inspiring this blog: My aunt Grace Warkentin for sharing the news of Thurlow’s Nobel prize; Thurlow for her courage, never shutting-up, no matter how impractical. Stay close, surround yourself, with those who who imagine the impractical. The truth is…lies are knocking us off course. Cut through the fog. Write, seek truth.

Get Off the Porch

Often you have to write your way into a story, building the back story to find your beginning. But when your plane takes off, you can cut the runway.  I seem to recall Annie Dillard saying that.

For example, of these two openers for my novel, Healing Falls, which would grab and keep you reading, A or B?

A. The evening light filtered amber, rose and deep purple through the grandfather oaks shading Smokey Hollow.
Or,
B. On Tuesday night, I hit a man. I squealed the brakes and skidded the tires, but struck him, flesh and bone. How long he’d been lying in the street, I didn’t know. I backed up and leaped from the van.

As my friend, M.R. Street, said, “You’ve got to get off the porch, and into the house.” Or into the woods, if that’s where you’re going. As a novelist and independent publisher, she knows the importance of a strong opening. It has to grip and sustain the reader.

“Call me Ishmael.” The literary favorite opening line from Herman Mellville’s Moby Dick, does so much with so little. Three words make an immediate, first-person connection with the reader, and suggest that a tale is coming, true or not. After all, who is Ishmael?
Or, notice the ambiguous light in Joseph Conrad’s opening to Heart of Darkness. “The sun set; the dusk fell on the stream, and lights began to appear on the shore.” He lists Chatham lighthouse overlooking a “great stir” of ship lights, “brooding gloom” of the monstrous town, “lurid glare” of stars, and the narrator, Marlow, saying, “And this also has been one of the dark places on earth.”
How much can you do with your opening line? If you’re Charles Dickens, you can set a sweeping utopian dystopia: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”
But you have to quit your brooding, and leave the porch. Get on with your story, launch your rocket. Then cut the launch pad.