Monday, November 28, 2011

The Reader, Responsible: Guest Post by Rachel Starr Thomson

Today I'm welcoming Rachel Starr Thomson to Bluerose's Heart! She is the author of the Worlds Unseen Trilogy.

Rachel's Guest Post:

As a kid I read hundreds of books. Maybe even thousands. My memories of childhood are all woven up with fantasy worlds and plot lines; with places I’d never been and people who weren’t real, but seemed to be. I read both fiction and nonfiction of all kinds. I read less now (I’m an adult with responsibilities, it seems), but still plenty: I read the Bible and books of theology, history, or Christian living every morning; I edit manuscripts all day; and I regularly read fiction for the purposes of review. My life is inescapably literary.

But there was a period of time, in my late teens, when I almost gave up reading entirely. I also gave up writing after only just having started seriously (after years of playing around with it, I wrote two novels in my early teens and started a book on missionary history—the latter was never finished, alas). The reason was that God had burst into my life in a new way, and I was so busy walking with him, fellowshipping with real people, and serving in ministry that I didn’t have time for books.

The pendulum, of course, swung again. “Free time” began to happen again, and I discovered that books actually played an important and irreplaceable role in my life: they developed my mind and imagination in ways that translated into real life. I was happier, more grounded, more creative, and more spiritually effective as a reader than as someone who didn’t have time for books.

But I’m glad I had that period of time away from the worlds of paper and ink. It taught me something important: that there’s a world of difference between responsible and irresponsible escapism.

Merriam-Webster defines “escapism” as “habitual diversion of the mind to purely imaginative activity or entertainment as an escape from reality or routine.” That kind of escape can be done irresponsibly. It can be a way of taking ourselves away from reality so that we don’t have to deal with it, of leaving people in the lurch and never really discovering ourselves or God or anything else that really matters.

On the other hand, escape can be valuable and responsible, because it can give us new perspective, new courage, new hope, and new imagination to carry back with us into our “real” lives. We can use what we discover in books to shape ourselves and our reality outside of them. I’ve been able to gain understanding of human nature while I read that later enabled me to show greater compassion or connect on a deeper level with another human being in the “real world.” I’ve been able to take the joy or beauty in a story and use it to see beauty and experience joy in real life. I’ve been able to carry visions of goodness and truth, seen in fiction, into the reality of my prayer life, my daily habits, and my lifetime goals. Books impact our minds and imaginations, and so much of the way we live begins in those places.

Of course, this definition of responsible reading—reading to find strength and inspiration for our lives outside of books—also requires reading good books as often as we can. Rejecting twaddle and embracing the truly great and holy in literature (“Christian” and otherwise) is a discipline in itself.

Rachel's Website

World's Unseen Website

About World's Unseen: (from Rachel's Site)

Warrior, Singer, Seer, Healer, Listener, Voice.

For five hundred years the Seventh World has been ruled by a tyrannical empire — and the mysterious Order of the Spider that hides in its shadow. History and truth are deliberately buried, the beauty and treachery of the past remembered only by wandering Gypsies, persecuted scholars, and a few unusual seekers.

But the past matters, as Maggie Sheffield soon finds out. It matters because its forces will soon return and claim lordship over her world, for good or evil.

An orphan, Maggie’s steps have been dogged by tragedies she’s always seen as disconnected. But when a dying friend appears on her doorstep with proof that the empire is lying about the source of its power — proof in the form of an ancient scroll — she learns that her own tragedies have been part of a deliberate plan to crush the truth. Convinced of the scroll’s importance, Maggie agrees to carry it to the only man who can read it, a scholar who lives across the sea in the eastern reaches of the continent.

Maggie’s journey connects her with rebels and dreamers and makes her the enemy of terrifying shadow creatures and the powers of the empire. And so the past is revealed, and an ancient war begins again, with the Gifted at the heart of it: six individuals whose powerful gifts point to a world beyond their own. The Singer, the Seer, the Healer, the Listener, the Warrior, and the Voice must join together to show their world what is true and what is false — and in the process, to save them all from the evil that lies at their door.

The Seventh World Trilogy is an epic fantasy, beautiful, terrifying, pointing to the realities just beyond the world we see.

Thank you so much for being with us today, Rachel!