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North Wind Manor

The Rabbit Room has surprised me once again.

One of the questions I’ve gotten quite a bit about writing (and one I’ve also asked many times) is whether or not it’s a good idea to have an outline for the story. Every writer is different, but my answer is that yes, it’s good to sit down early on and map out—in the vaguest terms—the outline of the story. However, that outline is only a tool to get you started. Once the real writing starts, the story will suggest itself to you, and if you’re determined to adhere to the outline at all costs, it just might cost you the story. The story, you’ll discover sooner than later, wants to be something, and there’s a good chance that that something is better than your outline. In the words of that one .38 Special song “Hold On Loosely,” uh, “Hold on loosely, and don’t let go. If you cling too tightly, you’re gonna lose control.”

The best thing about this philosophy of songwriting and/or storytelling is that you, the writer, get the blessing of surprise along the way, of serendipity and excitement. I honestly had no idea how The Warden and the Wolf King would end until I got about twenty pages from the last chapter. It’s scary, but it’s way more interesting. Writing can be a way to discover not just what will happen to your characters, but what’s going on in your own heart, soul, and mind.

Well, the Rabbit Room—this mystifying corner of the internet, which encompasses Hutchmoot and Rabbit Room Press and used books and concerts and music and theater and conversations about Jesus—has been an act of discovery, too. We had no idea what a sweet fellowship of friends it would nurture, or that we would publish The Molehill, or spawn Dude Breakfast (our weekly Waffle House hang). We held on loosely, we didn’t let go, and voila, Pete and I are here scratching our heads in delight at what God has done.

Some of you know that my family and I (because of the book Jayber Crow, by Wendell Berry) moved to the hills just south of Nashville about seven years ago. We basically traded our generic house in a subdivision for a smaller house on a bit of land. We wanted our kids to grow up with tick bites and poison ivy, with honeysuckle and tomatoes on the vine. It was a lateral move, financially, but what we got out of the deal was a wealth of experiences as I learned how to garden and keep bees, how to cut trails in the woods and identify trees and migrating birds. I can’t overstate what a blessing it has been for us to sink into a property that defies transience, a place where Jamie and I just might grow old together. I say “just might” because of that whole .38 Special song’s philosophy; we’re here and we love it, but we’re also doing our best to keep an ear to the ground in case the Lord decides to surprise us with a different chapter.

And a new chapter is what I want to tell you about. Our neighbors just sold their house. To us. And when I say, “to us,” what I mean is, more or less, to the Rabbit Room. This past weekend a gang of friends helped me move all my books and music gear out of the cabin I’ve called my office for the last three or four years; then we helped Pete and Jennifer move out of their condo; then we drove the moving truck to the Rabbit Room office and loaded it up with boxes and boxes of books, music, packing supplies, and furniture. Those three places—my office, the Rabbit Room office, and Pete and Jennifer’s home—are now housed in that one rambly old farmhouse we’ve named North Wind Manor. (You George MacDonald fans will appreciate the reference, and the dictionary definition of manor is, “a country house on a large piece of land.”) It needs a TON of work, but, nestled as it is on the property adjacent to the Warren, it couldn’t be in a better spot. Right now it’s full of boxes and paint cans, and it features walls, ceilings, and floors that are delightfully warped. There’s no central heat and air. It has problems, much like a song or a book that you’ve started but can’t quite see the end of yet. But right now, from the porch at the Warren, I can see the shadowy hulk of North Wind Manor across the field and I can imagine the stories that will be written there—literally and figuratively. It won’t be open to the public (for obvious reasons), but my prayer is that this new chapter of the Rabbit Room’s story, not to mention Pete and Jennifer’s story and that of my own family, will lead to great blessings for our little membership.

So if you’re inclined, say a prayer for us. We’re excited about where this story will lead, problems and all, because we’re trusting that the author’s intentions are good. I know that some of you out there have thought long and hard about how the Rabbit Room might acquire some actual property, and now that we have we’re already wondering how in the world we’ll pay for what needs to be done. We’ll keep you posted. North Wind Manor, like the Warren, was prayerfully dedicated to God’s Kingdom, and, mere days after we closed on the house, God called our bluff. Before we moved in a traveling family band broke down just outside of Nashville and crashed on the floors for a few days this week. They set up their gear and recorded a few demos, then they happily pitched in and helped us on moving day, which now strikes me as the perfect way to have inaugurated the new space.

The place, according to the former owners, is haunted. Not only does that make Pete and me happy (because of the wealth of stories I’m certain Pete will write about it), it makes me glad that new spirits inhabit the house—ones of joy, new beginnings, good work, and service. Thanks for supporting us these last several years. I can’t wait to see what happens next.


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