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Review and Reprise 5-23-14

To date, we've shipped out 1496 boxes of Wingfeather books to Kickstarter backers. We're all a little tired and stiff (including Mike, our local postman), but we've still got 713 to go before we're done. If you didn't back the project on Kickstarter, you may be pleased to know that The Warden and the Wolf King is now available for pre-order in the Rabbit Room store. We'll start shipping pre-orders on June 24th, so you'll have it a month before it's available anywhere else. Once we finish up with Kickstarter rewards, we also expect to have a few spare maps, Creaturepedias, Monster in the Hollows hardbacks, and signed/numbered art prints, which we'll make available once we have a solid inventory of what's left. Here's what's going on elsewhere in the Rabbit Room: Carlisle2009RearViewDavid Bruno looked in the rearview and discovered he was the target of the maniacal road rage festering in the car behind him. What he did to incur the wrath aimed his way is still a "Mystery Unsolved"---but we suspect it was either Barbara Lane or Rebecca Reynolds. press2Melanie Penn's Wake Up Love is still one of our favorites. Her second album "Hope Tonight" was released this Tuesday---and there was much rejoicing. Ben Shive once again produces, and once again outdoes himself. The record is beautiful, unique, and perfect for the great weather we've been having. Here's the title track. Check out the rest in the store. [audio:Hope.mp3] open bookSam Smith's kids have been in Jennifer Trafton's online writing class for the past six weeks and have loved the experience. (Full disclosure: Jennifer is my wife.) On Wednesday, Sam took the time to discuss some of his observations of the class, and he commends it highly (he was neither paid nor asked for said commendation). Enrollment for Jennifer's fall classes will open sometime in the next couple of months. clovenWarden and the Wolf King illustrator Joe Sutphin has launched a contest called "Create Your Own Cloven." Don't know what a "cloven" is? Better grab the first book of the Wingfeather Saga and catch up. Contestants are invited to illustrate their own creations and submit them via Instagram. Three winners will receive a copy of The Warden and the Wolf King signed by Andrew, and doodled in (and signed) by Joe. And take heart, judging will not be based only on skill alone. Both kids and adults are welcome to enter. The deadline for entries is June 20th. Have fun! Speaking of online writing classes, Jonathan Rogers will be hosting his own creative writing class this summer based on last years Hutchmoot session, "Writing Close to the Earth." I expect Jonathan will pop up next week with some more information about the course. RogersversThere's still time to grab a ticket for Blackbird Theater's new original play based on John Updike's novel, Roger's Version. Don't miss this great chance for a challenging and thought-provoking evening at the theater. Admission is free to Rabbit Room members, and, by this special invitation only, is just $5 for non-members. This special price is only for the private performance on May 29th. We'll see you there. If you recall the epic awesomeness of the Light for the Lost Boy tour, you'll remember that half of that awesomeness was thanks to the band Caleb, who backed Andrew for the tour. The band has changed its name to Colony House and is just about ready to spring their new album on the world. They just released a video what I assume is the first single. Beware, you'll have a hard time getting this one out of your head once you've heard it. Here's the video. TolkienBeowulfAs of yesterday, there's a new Tolkien book in the world. Tolkien was one of the 20th century's most knowledgable scholars on the Old English epic Beowulf, and Tolkien's own translation of the tale is finally available in print. The book contains Toller's (prose) translation of the poem along with commentary and a couple of other previously unpublished works, "Sellic Spell" and "The Lay of Beowulf." The book is a beautiful hardback and is now available in the Rabbit Room store. And finally, here's Thomas with his review of the new Spiderman movie. One Minute Review Amazing Spiderman Two from Thomas McKenzie on Vimeo.

Create Your Cloven Contest

Wingfeather fans have long heard tell of mysterious cloven haunting the Blackwood. These creatures are reportedly the twisted results of the failed melding between man and beast. To have a little interactive fun with the Wingfeather community, we came up with the "Create Your Cloven Contest." Our hope is to get fans inspired to do something creative, even if they don't view themselves as creative types! We won't be judging the entries based solely on technical merit. We just want you to have fun. Here are the general rules: Create and draw your own cloven, made up of a human and one or more animals. Give it a strange or creepy name. Post a photo on Instagram and hashtag #clovenfast and #wingfeathersaga in the description. Contest deadline is June 20th. That's all. The rest is up to you! Judging will commence once the deadline has passed. Three winners will receive a copy of The Warden and the Wolf King, signed by Andrew Peterson and signed and doodled in by illustrator Joe Sutphin (that's me!). You may be asking, "What is Clovenfast?" Well, you will have to find out for yourself when you read The Warden and the Wolf King, available 6/24 at and elsewhere in the world on 7/22. Happy drawing, mad scientists!  


An Artful Ally to Parents: Jennifer Trafton

Almost nothing is as refreshing to parents as someone who will come alongside you in the fight to love and shape your children. This informs the mission we’re on at Story Warren, so I try to be attuned to this happening. But life gets hectic and heavy, and our kids can suffer in the tumult. When we feel besieged, there’s nothing like the feeling of allies arriving. Many of you know that Jennifer Trafton teaches creative writing classes for kids. We have wanted to have our kids in the on-line version since it became available, but have only just now been able to do it. (We don’t live close to Nashville.) The six-week class just wrapped and I wanted to share some things about it. First off, I didn’t get to be in on all the details. Like many dads, I got to hear excited updates and tantalizing summaries, but didn’t really dig in like I had hoped I would. My experience was as an interested observer, albeit a heavily-invested one. My wife and I have been talking about the class and what it’s meant for our kids and here are some thoughts that came out of our experience.

New Release: Melanie Penn’s Hope Tonight

[Editor's note: Melanie Penn's album Wake Up Love was an instant hit for me, and it's also one of my very favorite of Ben Shive's productions. Ben and Melanie have been working on this second record for a long time, and I'm so glad the rest of you finally get to hear it.] In 2000-something, I read an article in which Michael Card was asked, "Who is the greatest Christian songwriter alive today?" He said, "Andrew Peterson." (I bet AP hates that, but it happened dude.) Back then I'd never heard of Andrew Peterson. So I found his website and bought every CD that I could. I had a train trip coming up, and on that ride I listened to The Far Country on a . . . discman (good grief what year was this?). I just ate it---I mean, it's like I ate all of the songs on that album while I sat on that Amtrak train. I gobbled them up. I just loved that record. I had a feeling then, This guy might be my people. I wonder if his people are my people? You see, I am always looking for my people. Turns out, Andrew would become a friend. And so would Ben Shive, the producer of that record, The Far Country. Turns out, Ben Shive would produce my two solo records. The first, Wake Up Love, and now this one Hope Tonight. Turns out, many people are Andrew's people---musicians, Rabbit Roomers, and lots of other incredible folks. And we have all found each other, and loved songs, and loved the way that songs can bring us together and create a tribe. I wrote the title song for this record, "Hope Tonight," when I felt like I had no tribe. I wasn't making ends meet very well, and I wasn't meeting demands very well. I started throwing a pity-party for myself in my New York City apartment---just my guitar and me---like I do. "Here's the thing, it'll chill ya to the bone ..." But no sooner did I get into the guts of this song than all the blessings, promise, and hope of life came pouring back in---back into my heart and back into the lyrics. "There must be more than I / See with my naked eye / Some underlying design / Will make things right." Turns out our tribe has a lot more in common than songs, and artists, and the Rabbit Room . . . we have hope. And not just hope tonight---but hope right now, today, tomorrow, the next day, until the very end of the end when time stops and there is no more end. I hope this record reminds you of that. I guess what I mean to say is, Hello from Brooklyn. Ben and I made a new record. We hope you like it. [Hope Tonight is now available in the Rabbit Room store.] "Hope Tonight" by Melanie Penn from the record Hope Tonight [audio:Hope.mp3] (click through for lyrics)

Mystery Unsolved

It happened driving home the other day and I am nearly sure it was not my fault. Yes, I was on the phone and the conversation was a touch heated. But, like always, I talked hands-free and cut my usual path northbound in the next-to-fast lane without swerving in and out of traffic. Moreover, I was such not a distracted driver that I heard the honk and therefore checked my mirrors. Her tiny reflection was in the fast lane several cars behind me. She was waving one-tenth of her manicured fingers and repeatedly mouthing a short phrase that ended with the second person singular pronoun. “South Pole elf,” I thought and turned my attention back to my phone conversation and to the road in front of me. But she pursued.

Rabbit Room Review & Reprise 5-16-14

This week we loaded over 9000 copies of The Warden and the Wolf King and Pembrick's Creaturepedia into the Rabbit Room office, and tomorrow morning, we'll start boxing up Kickstarter orders and mailing them out. The mailing process is bound to take several days, but some of you should start receiving your books, art prints, maps, and (in some cases) original drawings, by the middle of next week. Ebooks and desktop wallpapers will also go out in the next few days. We think you'll be pleased with the final product. Here's what was going on this week when we weren't loading books: inkwell-art1-1Sam Smith and the folks at the Story Warren are getting together next month for Inkwell, the first of what is hopefully an annual conference for families. The roster features Andrew Peterson (writing), Randall Goodgame (songwriting), Zach Franzen (illustration), Rebecca Reynolds (poetry), and more. It's an event for the entire family and there's still time to register. Click here for more information. grass-field-mountains-hills-trees-sun-rays-light-morning-sky-1361874Lanier Ivester has an old soul and it came out this week in the form of a gorgeous poem called "This Is What Joy Looks Like." Recommended reading while spring is still in bloom. Here's an excerpt:

"All earth holds its breath, waiting, for that one, clear, cold note; for the ache of the thing that is surely coming; for the nativity of the world. (You have forgotten to wait for it, sitting indoors with your fingers interlaced, or kneeling to blow on blood-red coals yet smoldering upon a bed of grey ash. But now you remember, stung alive by that keen air, bearing tinctures of delicate things for all its rude handling---violets and tiny white feathers and bits of blue shell at the foot of a tree. Forgetting takes time, but remembrance is the matter of a moment.)"
The Oracle of PhiladelphiaEvery writer knows what it's like to put so much work into a piece that he can no longer stand to look at it. If anyone ever said it was supposed to be easy, they were lying. Pete Peterson uses his recent short story, "The Oracle of Philadelphia," to discuss the love and loathing we all experience in the creative process. Read his post, "I'm Sick of This," here. RogersversIn the past, Blackbird Theater has invited the Rabbit Room audience to a number of their productions, and they're doing so again this month with Roger's Version. The play is an original adaptation of one of John Updike's most acclaimed novels, and we're delighted that we've been invited to a special invitation-only premiere on May 29th. Admission is free to Rabbit Room members, and only $5 for non-members. If you enjoy thought-provoking theater, don't miss the show. Click here for more information. That's it for now. We've got Kickstarter orders to fill!

Join us at the Theater: Roger’s Version

In the past few years we've developed a great relationship with Nashville's Blackbird Theater. They first invited the Rabbit Room audience to their production of G. K. Chesterton's Magic, then Greg Greene and Wes Driver (the creative team behind Blackbird) led a theater session at Hutchmoot, and following that they've invited us to other productions like Amadeus, RedOleanna, and Man and Superman---all plays that reckon with powerful ideas and perspectives on art, faith, ethics, and philosophy. This year, John Updike's estate gave Wes permission to develop one of his favorite Updike novels, Roger's Version, for the stage. That's a great opportunity for Wes, and I'm super excited that Blackbird has invited the Rabbit Room audience into their theater once again. The show officially opens on May 30th, but you (yes you, Dear Reader) are invited to a special invitation-only performance on Thursday, May 29th. Better yet, the show is free to Rabbit Room members (click here if you're not yet a member), and only $5 to non-members. The only caveat is to be aware that it's a show intended for adults; it contains some strong language and adult situations (no nudity)---solidly PG-13. If you're like me, you may not know much about John Updike or his novel, but I sat down with Greg and Wes a couple of weeks ago to talk about the production and it sounds like it's right up my alley. Below is Wes's director's statement about the play, which will give you a good look at the ideas and themes he's tackling. As I've come to expect from Blackbird's productions, the show should provoke thought, ask big questions, and leave me pondering the performance long after the lights have dimmed. We'll be there, and I hope you will be too. Click here for tickets (no need to buy a ticket if you're a Rabbit Room member---your name will be on the guest list.) Director's Statement "There are plenty of stories that entertain you. Fewer that genuinely move you. And then there are those very rare ones that, for some reason or other, cut you to the core—or seemingly raid your psyche—expressing your most deeply felt passions and perspectives. The characters are so vivid, you feel like you know them. Intimately. Because, truth be told, they seem to be reflections and extensions of yourself. That’s what Roger’s Version is to me. Roger’s Version is one of John Updike’s lesser known novels, though no less acclaimed. Renowned more in religious circles than literary, it’s a fierce battle between beliefs, a theological bloodbath. And when I first read it—more than ten years ago now—I wanted to put the thing on stage. Updike’s works are not known for making easy transitions to other media, but so much of this book already played like great drama: the frank unflinching dialogue, the fiery ideological conflicts. To me, it cried out to be staged, to be incarnated. What a privilege that the Updike estate has let me do just that. It’s an idea-rich, character-driven drama, where Christian history meets modern technology. Where science and religion butt heads and bare teeth—in such surprising ways, too: science is represented by a zealous believer; religion, by a less-than-pious divinity professor. A complex, intellectually demanding look at religious conviction, explored through the lives of damaged, desperate people. Simply put, it’s about faith and infidelity—and, despite conflicts (of beliefs and in our social affairs), that common quest for truth and meaning." ---Wes Driver, Director, Blackbird Theater Click here to grab a ticket.

I’m Sick of This

Yesterday, I saw someone on Facebook mention that they'd sent the final draft of their manuscript off to the publisher after having rewritten and revised it so much that they had come to hate it and could stand to look at it no longer. I know that feeling. When I sit down to write, one of two things happens. The first possibility is that I have a great idea, know exactly what I want to write and how I want to write it, and I bang it out in a whirl of clacking laptop keys. When I’m finished I triumphantly hammer down the save button and go away feeling satisfied with myself. The second possibility is that I sit and stare at the screen for a while, eventually writing an awful sentence, then deleting it, then writing another but maybe deleting only half of it because the first part wasn't quite as bad as the last, then staring at and loathing even that until I delete and rewrite it twelve more times. This continues for an hour or two until I've got a few hundred words cobbled together that I can no longer stand to look at. I close the laptop and walk away feeling a little sick and a lot like a complete hack. To be fair, there's a third possibility---a hybrid of the other two. I'll have a great idea, and I'll know exactly what I want to do with it, but when I sit down to write, nothing comes together. The interesting thing, though, is what happens the next day.

This is what joy looks like

This is what joy looks like: It looks like walking over the lawn in that time of late winter’s striving with early spring, when afternoon and evening brush fingers in passing, throwing careless glances over shadowed shoulders, and all the wealth of the sun’s bullion lies heaped in treetops, mounted and piled among far-flung boughs like plunder, forgotten— or abandoned—in sudden flight. (Boys once sought a piece of this prize, training their darts towards all that opulence, aiming to see an arrow gilded before falling to earth once more, transfigured.) All earth holds its breath, waiting, for that one, clear, cold note; for the ache of the thing that is surely coming; for the nativity of the world. (You have forgotten to wait for it, sitting indoors with your fingers interlaced, or kneeling to blow on bloodred coals yet smoldering upon a bed of grey ash. But now you remember, stung alive by that keen air, bearing tinctures of delicate things for all its rude handling—violets and tiny white feathers and bits of blue shell at the foot of a tree. Forgetting takes time, but remembrance is the matter of a moment.) It is then, when you have finally opened your eyes that the miracle steals on tiptoe, lifting with smallest hands the bank of heavy cloud which has sullened and saddened the earth all day, throwing out in one radiant glance enough glory to christen the world. Thus known and named, all things sing back themselves for sheer gladness, in flashes of birdsong and music of color: Glory to thee and all thanks to thee, O Namegiver! In that light, all is canticle and verse; all is wild tumult of praise: leaping serum of veining sap and homing dove and bright cacophonous rooster’s crow! And yet, the bird in the hedge falls silent, checked in his mad virtuosity by that strange creeping splendor decanting itself like summer wine, casting a holy blush over every living thing. It is in that moment, poised in perfection upon the very doorstep of eternity, that you catch the echo of scarce-dreamed-of desire, resonating down darkened vestibules, haunting the ventricles and chambers of your heart. For one searing instant, you prize past all equal the spangling of sun-shot tears trembling from the naked branches; the rising incense of mist is more costly than gold, and that one aureate wisp caught among the dark tresses of the pines far more precious—and then you know: You are more alive than flesh and bone could ever hold; more vital than body and blood and thought. You are made for more rapture than one life can contain.

Unbottling Imagination For A Dangerous Day in June

Do you dream of connecting your children to what you love? I think we all do, especially when what we love most is the Kingdom of God. Anticipating the Kingdom has become the central concern in our family, showing up on the edges of conversations and decisions, coloring our black and white ambition with love. Of course we often lose focus, but it is the thing we come back to when we want to really see. And it is not only the Kingdom, of course, but the King. Over the past fifteen years, I’ve become convinced of the essential importance of imagination as a root of meaning in life. What we imagine, we love. What we anticipate, we live for. I don’t have to make a case for the importance of imagination in this place, I think. But I will declaim its centrality. Without imagination, there is no real faith. It is seeing what may not be precisely present, but what IS. It is an opportunity for humble conformity to Reality. I know it is fashionable to be enamored of Doubt, but I need holy imagination to counter my own woeful doubting. My kids need it, just like I do. Gina and I see our job as parents centered around shaping the affections of our children. We want them to love what is True, Good, and Beautiful.