When you grow up evangelical in the South, you hear God speak all the time.
(REMEMBER, UNLESS I RAISE MY TOTAL, $3575, I RECEIVE NO FUNDS.)
In October of 2011, Rhizome Publishing contacted me about writing a book with them because they were impressed with my blog. In March 2012, I signed my contract. In May, I discovered exactly what the book needed to be about.
Tables in the Wilderness: A Memoir of God Found, Lost, and Found Again is about the day I felt as if Jesus were sitting on a couch next to me, said it was going to be about trust, and then He packed His boxes and moved out. It’s also about what happened before, the day He came back, and what happened after.
Part spiritual autobiography, part expository essay, Tables in the Wilderness shall be my offering, my confession. It’s about trying to live, between prayerbooks and tent revivals, to find God again.
It is my hope that the book would meet you where you are, in the midst of the ever-wonderous now, inviting you into deeper conversation with our Creator, to see the fullness of the creation as His, and to uncover the daily, lifelong discipline, lifelong joy of resting in the fullness of Him in whom we move and have our being. (Acts 17:28)
The manuscript is due to Rhizome on February 28, 2013. It's slated for publication that summer.
When you grow up evangelical in the South, you hear God speak all the time.
Over the mashed potatoes, under the watch of the calligraphic Scriptures on the walls; in Carl Kasell’s voice over the radio on your way to school. You invite God to coffee to study the Bible with you and He sits beside you on the bus to church camp and laughs at all your jokes. You hear Him that night on the jungle gym and that time you stood at the corner of downtown with a sandwich in your hand wondering why you got up in the middle of the Ash Wednesday service and fled. And you keep hearing Him, years on end, even on that Sunday you sit in the parking lot of the small Episcopal church after the Baptist-based ministry you felt Him call you to do has crumbled and you are so vacant and so wavering that you tell Him you’re done, you’re empty, and He tells you to walk into church.
But one September morning, when you least expect it, you’re sitting in a friend’s apartment in the middle of September after a belated celebration of your birthday the night before—in which you drank French 75s and read aloud a short story you wrote about lighthouses and champagne, after which your friend tells you you’re sill in love with the girl you broke up with a year ago and you should call her, find out where things stand—and you’re reading the Gospel of Luke when you feel suddenly, keenly, that Christ the Lord is sitting beside you on the couch as you’re reading. It’s a different kind of hearing. It’s almost the tangible kind. Since this is new, you try to make pious small talk, pointing out that you hadn’t noticed before in the Song of Zechariah that Christ is there called the rising sun.
But He doesn’t want to make small talk.
“It’s going to be about trust with you."
Eight words. Ten syllables.
Then He’s gone. And you stop hearing God speak altogether.
It’s just you, the King James, and the Silence, which is really, truly, a feeling of Absence.
And you think it might be the middle of something, or the end. Eventually, nearly a year later, you see it as a beginning. But the seeing takes time. For a little while, it’s just going to be you and the Silence.
Why I'm Asking for Money
In addition to writing this book, I shall be attending the University of St. Andrews in Scotland this coming Fall to earn my Masters in Imagination, Theology, and the Arts from the St. Mary's School of Divinity. I'm taking out student loans, which shall only pay for my tuition, not even books, room and board. Below, I am detailing how I am working tirelessly to earn money this summer. However, this leaves me with the need to work a part-time job while in St. Andrews. A visa for an American student working in the UK only allows twenty hours of in-country work per week. Already working constantly this summer, with school and work in the Fall, it's becoming increasingly difficult for me to justify working on this book. Rhizome is an excellent publishing house, but as a startup they do not pay advances but impressive royalties. Royalties that I won't see until next year. In order to write this book now, while being in school and working part-time, I need another way to make money while writing.
I am asking, in short, for you to pay me $5 an hour to write my book, because I believe this is a story that needs telling.
How I'm Working for It, Already
Right now, I'm working for a Baptist Association in which my primary function is to serve four specific ministries by raising awareness and grant funding to help them continue their good work. One gives a place to stay to families of the incarcerated and on death row; the others specifically work with drug rehabilitation and women who are leaving lives of prostitution to help them be reconciled with families, become independent, maintain steady employment, and then become mentors themselves for those just starting out in the program.
I love my job; I love that I spend my days trying to help other people raise money for their ministries that are producing such beautiful outcomes. Every penny I make from this job, however, is going directly into savings in preparation for graduate school. I'm not really touching the money I'm making. Even with all of that banked, however, a summer spent working full time for these ministries--between shooting principal photography, writing grant proposals, editing film, speaking to congregations, getting people involved--I will still only have enough to cover my rent in a very modest accommodation when I start my degree in the Fall.
In addition, I am painting and selling those paintings. All money I make from my art goes right into my savings for graduate school and, intentionally, toward providing me the opportunity to write while in school.
What This Money Would Do, and Wouldn't
The amount I am asking for would not free me from having to work while I was at St. Andrews. I would still have to obtain a part-time job. I'm certainly not opposed to this. What it would do, however, would pay me for the time I spend writing. I would earn essentially $5 an hour spent writing over the course of my 10 month stay. It would mean that I would be able to legitimize spending time working on this book as opposed to securing employment that, while keeping me financially sound, would also mean I would have very little time to finish my manuscript.
I am asking, only, for the smallest amount that would still give me time to be in school, work, and to write. I would love to ask for more, I would love to spend my time only in school and only writing, but I trust. I trust that we have been called to be good stewards with our time and talents, so I believe that God can provide even in the smallest amount and the smallest way.
Yes, I am offering copies of the book but I'm also offering paintings, baked goods, and cooking in your home! It's how I live, inviting people to my table, so I think it's the best way for me to share and give back. Bookmarks taken from my original watercolors, canvases, personal chats. It's how I do things.
I want to write this book. I believe in this book. But it's going to take a lot of work and time, time which I can't justify if I'm not also making money to pay for rent, food, and the occasional coffee. Pray about it, consider it, call me up on Skype (preston_yancey) and we'll chat about it. Come on this wild journey with me?
AND REMEMBER, UNLESS I RAISE MY TOTAL, $3575, I RECEIVE NO FUNDS.
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