Many of my friends and peers in the book world are all atwitter with the news that River Jordan has a new podcast on Spotify! River Jordan, an eminently applauded author known, paradoxically, for her common-man, every-day appeal and profound esotericism, is both a drink of fresh water and a taste acquired as in the most sophisticated of wines. A no-nonsense, laser-sharp writer of deep fathoms, she has an uncanny knack for bringing the world to its brass tacks in a manner that highlights the ordinary as extraordinary. Her versatility as fiction and non-fiction author has gained her legions of devoted followers, myself among them, and I’m introducing River Jordan here for the uninitiated!
A few endorsements that will make a case in point:
PRAISE FOR RIVER JORDAN
“River Jordan is like Thomas Merton, Patti Smith, and Anne Lamott all rolled up into one compassionate, timely, and bracingly honest gift.” Silas House, author, Southernmost
”River Jordan is the South’s Anne Lamont.” Joy Jordan-Lake, author, A Tangled Mercy
“This author writes with a hard bitten confidence comparable to Ernest Hemingway. And yet, in the Souther tradition of William Faulkner, she can knit together sentences that can take your breath.” Florida Today
”Author River Jordan conjures up the traditions of Flannery O’Connor, Harper Lee, and Peter Straub.” The Tampa Tribune
Above is one of River Jordan’s books that I highly recommend!
In my book review, I wrote, in part: “Praise for Confessions of a Christian Mystic! This is a writer who asks the big questions for us; who owns a steady faith base yet thinks outside the box. Confessions of a Christian Mystic is devout and dauntless. It is sonorous, beautiful, soul-deep, and fearless.”
A little background about River Jordan:
River Jordan is an author, speaker, teacher and radio host. As a southerner with a global perspective she is a passionate advocate for the power of story.
River’s writing career began as a playwright and she spent over ten years writing and directing. She is the best-selling author of four novels and a three spiritual memoirs. As a critically-acclaimed author her work has been most frequently cast in the company of such writers as Flannery O’Conner, William Faulkner, and Harper Lee.
Ms. Jordan lives on a hill just beyond Nashville city limits surrounded by her wild, southern family. When not on the road you’ll find her on her porch at night watching the moon move through the star-filled sky and contemplating all manner of things human and divine.
Her latest release came out in October:
The Ancient Way, Discoveries On the Path of Celtic Christianity is her most recent book written about her pilgrimage to the Isle of Iona in Scotland.
More on why so many are thrilled with the news of River Jordan’s Podcast!
I encourage you to listen to River Jordan on Spotify, where she gifts the listener with short, insightful, pithy insights that ring with universal resonance on subjects common to us all. Her offerings are short vignettes I find both delightful and deeply profound. I’ve made listening to Jordan’s podcast, titled Saints in Limbo, a regular practice. They are nothing short of uplifting messages. Saints in Limbo is on Spotify, Monday through Friday. The example below will give you an idea of the podcasts’ soul-stirring depth of field.
“A podcast to help get through these days that seem neither here nor there, before or after, what used to be or what will come after.
A poem, a prayer, a story, a few good words for all good Saints who feel they’ve fallen into a strange new place called limbo.
“a heart-warming story full of charm and optimism; a wonderous journey that transcends the celebration of Christmas with breathtaking illustrations throughout.”
Stars of Wonder: A Children’s Christmas Adventure is delightfully representative of life’s sacred journey as seen through the eager hearts of four royal siblings who live in a land far, far away.
Respectful of their loving parents, princes Jonah, Nathan, and Jacob lie on a blanket beside their parents and sister Phoebe, gazing at the heavens and whispering because “the soft winds and the calls of the owls and the sound of the waves created such beautiful music.” When a bright new star is spotted, the family is intrigued, and when Phoebe overhears her father remark, “I think—no, I believe that this fine bright star is leading the way to a new King, the greatest king the world has ever known,” the royal children conspire to set out on a brave adventure to meet the new king. Enlisting their friend Sumar, who knows about the care and maintenance of camels, the royal siblings set out from their village on a three-day journey but make the tactical error of not telling their parents because they don’t want them to worry.
It is a journey fraught with teachable moments. While resting overnight in the desert, the party is ambushed by three mountain lions and “The princess and Sumar and the three princely brothers all jumped to their feet, filled with both fear and courage, because it is true that fear and courage often happen together.” The lurking mountain lion illustration interjected at this moment is both fearsome and beautiful, with jewel tones encased in rich texture that make the predator something worth petting.
While Jasmine the camel heals from a lion’s scratch, it is decided the three princes will journey on to the palace they spy on the hill to ask about the distance to the new king, while Phoebe and Sumar stay with the camel. When old and wrinkly Nana Anna appears to Phoebe and Sumar, she reveals that she, too, is on a journey to see the new king because “No matter a person’s age, or size, or personality, or where they were from, or what language they spoke, or food they liked, the bright star in the sky was important to everyone.” When Phoebe admires the bracelet on Nana Anna, the wise woman gifts it to her and describes the symbolic meaning of each colorful bead, all of which serve to remind that “life is grand and love is real and beauty is everywhere.”
Separated from Sumar and their sister, the three princes spend the night at the palace of grumpy and cranky King Herod, whom, they suspect, is not trustworthy, though he is hospitable. In describing the king, Prince Nathan says he is nefarious, and the conversation that ensues regarding the word leads to the merits of a good vocabulary. The brothers’ journey on until they come to their final destination, where “The man with the gentle eyes spoke very quietly. This is Mary, and I am Joseph, and this little one we call Jesus.” Mary, upon hearing of nefarious King Herod, counsels, “you definitely do not have to do what a nefarious person tells you to do. If you get that untrustworthy feeling about someone, you must trust your own feelings. They are called instincts.”
After visiting with Mary and Joseph and Jesus, the princes return to the place where they left Phoebe and Sumar to discover their parents, Sumar’s father, and Nana Anna are assembled. As the siblings recount their adventure, Phoebe quotes Nana Anna in saying, “Life is grand, and love is real, and beauty is everywhere!”
“I saw that in our journey together,” said Prince Jonah.
“I saw it in our care for each other,” said Prince Nathan
“I see it now in our parents love and our friendship,” said Sumar.
“I see it everywhere I look!” said Phoebe.
Stars of Wonder: A Children’s Christmas Adventure teaches poignant lessons. Good decisions, perfect love, insecurity, challenging moments, care for animals, and disagreements are brought to the fore, and in perfectly placed prompts, the reader is asked what they’d do. It is a heart-warming story full of charm and optimism; a wonderous journey that transcends the celebration of Christmas with breathtaking illustrations throughout.
Claire Fullerton’s most recent novels are Little Tea and multiple award winner, Mourning Dove. Honors include the Independent Book Publishers Book Award Silver Medal for Regional Fiction, the Reader’s Favorite for Southern Fiction Bronze Medal and various other literary awards.
I can’t say I didn’t see it coming. Now that my book, ‘’Dancing to Irish Reel” is out, I’m being asked the inevitable question, “How much of the story is true?” Everyone who knows me personally knows I picked up and moved to the west coast of Ireland without much of a plan, and that I stayed for a year. Add that to the fact that the book is written in the first person, that the narrator’s interior monologues in the story are unabashedly confessional to the point of unnecessary risk. I’ve been told the book reads like a memoir, and for that, I can only say I’m glad because this was my intention. I can see why readers might think the entire story is true.
But writers make a choice in how to lay out a story, and in my case, I wrote the book based on the kind of books I like to read. I’m a one-trick pony kind of a reader. I want an intimate narrator’s voice with which I can connect. I want to know exactly whom I’m listening to, so that I can align with a premise that makes the story’s swinging pendulum of cause and effect plausible. The way I see it, there are always bread crumbs along the path to the chaotic predicaments people find themselves in, and although many are blind to their own contributions, when I read a book, I want to be the one who divines how the character got there.
What fascinates me about people are their backstories. Oh, people will tell you their highlights, but they rarely reveal their churning cauldron of attendant emotions; they rarely confess to carrying acquired fears. We all want to appear bigger than our own confusion, and the key word here is “appear,” because when it comes to faces, most people like to save theirs. This is the point I wanted to make in the story, but I also wanted “Dancing to an Irish Reel,” to be about discovery, so I started with a narrator who is a fish out of water: a twenty-five year old American ensconced in a specific culture she uncovers like the dance of seven veils. In the midst of this there enters an Irish traditional musician named Liam Hennessey. He is from the region, of the region, and therefore it can only be said he is because of the region in a way that is emblematic. From a writer’s point of view, the supposition offers the gift of built-in conflict, most poignantly being the clash of the male-female dynamic set upon the stage of differing cultures trying to find a bridge. And I can think of no better culture clash than America and Ireland. I say this because I happen to know to the Irish, we Americans are a bit brazen, that we have the annoying habit of being direct. But the Irish are a discreet lot, culled from a set of delicate social manners that seem to dance around everything, leaving an American such as me with much guesswork.
No matter how they shake it, writers write about what they know, even if it has to be extracted from varying quadrants that have no good reason for being congealed. “Dancing to an Irish Reel” is a good example of this: it came to me as a strategy for commenting on the complexities of human beings inherent longing to connect—the way we do and say things that are at variance with how we really feel, in the interest of appearances, and how this quandary sometimes dictates how we handle opportunities in life. In my opinion, there is no better playing field on which to illustrate this point than the arena of new found attraction. I’m convinced the ambiguity of new love is a universal experience, and since the universe is a big wide place, and since ‘”Dancing to an Irish Reel” has something to say about hope and fear and the uncertainty of attraction, it occurred to me that I might as well make my point set upon the verdant fields of Ireland because everything about the land fascinated me when I lived there, and I wanted to take any reader that would have me to the region I experienced as cacophonous and proud: that mysterious, constant, quirky, soul-infused island that lays in the middle of the Atlantic, covered in a blanket of green, misty velvet.
Excerpt from “Dancing to an Irish Reel”
The distance between Inverin and Clifden is approximately sixty kilometers. It’s a visually inspiring hour-long ride through undulating midlands with grass as soft as velvet, gray stone walls that split the landscape, and bubbling intermittent streams as you glide along a two-lane road that cuts through a terrain devoid of street markers, stop signs, or any other indication the area has been previously trodden. There is little suggestion of civilization anywhere in sight and it is a quiet, unobstructed journey through the heart of Connemara with nothing in store, save for the destination of Clifden.
Driving into Clifden, one is abruptly thrust into the center of a thriving village that hosts an annual, three-day music festival wherein every pub door is invitingly open with signs outside announcing which Irish traditional musicians will be playing within the standing-room-only venues. A rudimentary chalkboard sat on the sidewalk outside of Mannion’s Pub with “Welcome Liam Hennessey” sprawled across in large, eye-catching cursive.
I followed Liam into the middle of a waiting crowd, which parted ceremoniously as he made his way to the old man seated against the wall across from the bar. Wind-tossed and toothless, the man sat on a battered wooden chair, tuning a fiddle and nodding his greeting while Liam opened his accordion case and settled in beside him. When a flute player joined them, the crowd fell into an anticipatory hush, ready for the music to begin. I stationed myself in front of the bar, minding my own business, but that soon became short-lived.
“Are you here with Liam?” asked a middle-aged man who was standing too close to me.
“Yes.” I took a step back.
“She’s here with Liam,” the man announced, turning to the man beside him.
“Ah,” the second man gasped, “she is, so!”
“Where did you get that blond hair on your head?” The first man eyed me.
“I brought it with me from America,” I said.
“She’s from America!” The man turned to the other man, his eyes opened wide.
“America indeed!” The second man drew in his breath.
“All I want in the world is for me brother to come in and see me standing here talking to you,” said the first man. “I wouldn’t care if a pooka came for me after that. Will you have a pint? Get her a pint, Tom,” he directed.
“Tom, make that a half-pint,” I said, trying not to laugh. I looked over at an obviously amused Liam, who smiled and winked as if to say he knew what was happening.
I looked toward the door and noticed an unusually small woman walking in with what appeared to be members of her family due to their similarity in stature. I’d met her in Galway before: she was a musician named Deanna Rader who played guitar and sang anything from Irish traditional music to her own compositions. I’d heard her sing in her low, husky voice a few times before, and because she was a friend of Declan’s, I’d exchanged pleasantries with her a few times as well. From the looks of things, she was in Mannion’s with her father and two sisters. She came smiling to my side instantly.
“Well then, you’ve made your way out here now, have you?” She looked up at me.
“I came here with Liam,” I said, grateful to know someone in the crowd.
“I knew you must have. So, it’s the two of you now, is it?”
“Well, I don’t know if I’d put it that way,” I said, diverting the implication. I couldn’t recall if I’d seen Deanna while I was out with Liam, or if she asked this because she’d heard people talking.
“You’re a long way from home yourself,” I said. “Is this festival a big deal?”
“Oh God, yes. People look forward every year. Luckily my parents live in Letterfrack, just up the road. I’ve been spending the last couple of nights with them. We’ve all come ’round tonight for the craic.”
“Well, it’s nice to know someone here,” I said.
“My sister came out to sing tonight. Would you mind asking Liam if she could give us a song?”
“Sure,” I said. “I’ll ask him when they take a break.”
“They probably won’t do that, so you’d be waiting for ages,” Deanna said. “You’ll just have to lean over and ask, like.”
“When?” I asked.
“How about now?” she said.
“If it wouldn’t be too much trouble,” she smiled sweetly.
I looked over at the musicians, who were in full swing. There was no way I was going to butt in, even though Deanna kept standing there looking up at me expectantly. Just then, a man at the bar stepped forward enthusiastically. He leaned into the musicians circle, grabbed Liam by the arm, and shouted loudly, “The young lady here wants to give us a song.” With that, the music came to a screeching halt, and a whirlwind of preparation commenced. Liam leaned over and whispered to the two musicians beside him, instruments were set down, a microphone was raised, a path spontaneously cleared, and into the arena stepped Deanna’s sister. It was like the infamous scene of Marilyn Monroe singing “Happy Birthday” to President Kennedy.
There was a hush in the room as all eyes riveted upon the girl. She stood all of five foot two, but within that minuscule framework there was a lot going on: thick, raven hair fell in loose waves across her forehead and down her back. Large green oval eyes slanted and squinted catlike beneath thick, dark lashes. Turn by turn, her eyes focused and held one man in the room after another. She stood with her right hand on her hip and her voluptuous weight shifted to the left. With great histrionics, she crooned out a song in the Irish language I’d never heard before.
When she finally stopped, she sashayed over to Liam, totally aware everybody was watching. With grand theatrics, she threw both her arms around his neck and kissed him square on the mouth, nearly knocking him over with her forward advance. All hands in the room clapped loudly, wolf whistles erupted, and a few eyes turned my way.
“I imagine you’d have something to say about this passionate display,” said Deanna’s father, who had materialized beside me.
“Not really,” I said. “Do you?”
“You have to watch that one is all. She’ll be the death of me one day, he said, cocking his head toward her.
“I hope not,” I said.
“No harm done then?”
“No harm at all,” I said.
Dancing to an Irish Reel is available where books are sold!
Congratulations to Lindsey Brackett on the release of her novella, Magnolia Mistletoe!
Hannah Calhoun knows what she wants for Christmas. But before she can become a full-fledged partner in her mother’s wedding planning business, she has to prove she can handle her own shortcomings.
Benjamin Townsend is an entrepreneur always looking out for the next big thing—and if hosting weddings on Edisto is it, he’s all in. Even if that does mean spending a lot of time with Hannah, whose world is way more full of happily ever after than his.
Once the magnolia and mistletoe are hung, will an Edisto Christmas be exactly the magic these two need?
AUTHOR: LINDSEY P. BRACKETT
When I’m not wrangling four kids, I sit on my back porch in the mountains and write southern fiction that’s short and long. I believe in Jesus, library fines, supper at the table, Edisto Island, and strong coffee. Pretty much in that order.
Lindsey P. Brackett writes southern fiction infused with her rural Georgia upbringing and Lowcountry roots. Her debut novel, Still Waters, inspired by family summers at Edisto Beach, released in 2017. Called “a brilliant debut” with “exquisite writing,” Still Waters was named an INSPY finalist and the 2018 Selah Book of the Year. Her second novel, The Bridge Between, releases July 31, 2019.
A member of ACFW and RWA, Lindsey mentors writers, and is a speaker on the lifelong value of reading and writing for conferences, schools, and libraries. Her syndicated column “Just Write Life” appears in several North Georgia newspapers.
Download her FREE novella, Magnolia Mistletoe, with newsletter signup at lindseypbrackett.com or on Instagram and Facebook: @lindseypbrackett.
Some say your novel The Shores Of Our Souls is a romance. Do you consider it such? What genre did you intend it to fall under when you wrote it?
I believe my novel falls on a literary fiction shelf, or an upmarket women’s fiction shelf. I wrote it to open a conversation, so it’s great for book clubs. It’s cross-genre for sure, if you’re trying to label it. It’s about war, love, and international intrigue. It’s a bildungsroman for the female character, and parts of it are historical fiction.
What do reviewers miss about your novel?
My novel is a love story, not a romance in the strict sense of the genre. It’s about why and how we love. It differs from many other love stories in that it’s told from two points of view. It was a risk on my part, but I did it to give my readers a better understanding of Arab culture, religion, experience, and values. That’s what drives any relationship – perspective and values.
It also doesn’t fall into a traditional romance trope of “Happily Ever After.” Instead, it shows what two people, damaged and alone, can do to heal and catalyze each other if they share love, even if it’s short-lived. I don’t like tied-up-with-a-bow finales, although readers who want one may like my sequel better. My sequel A Thousand Flying Things opens a decade later, and my my protagonists Dianna and Qasim have had time and space to heal inside, come into their own, before they reunite again. We’ll see if their love survives the separation. (Hint: There are some surprises that even Dianna doesn’t know about in their decade of separation.)
Call it what you will, love conquers all, especially division. It can also lead to mutual understanding. The connection and empathy it evokes can resolve conflict. Every conflict we face teaches us about each other and the world we live in, but only if we feel enough compassion for others to walk in their shoes. Rarely, love leads to a lifetime partnership. Often, it teaches us who we are.
If there was one thing you’d like to tell your readers about Shores, what would it be?
If people read only the first few scenes, they won’t understand that these two characters have been broken. They want to love, but societal wounds have rendered them incapable of it until they heal. Damaged people don’t make the best decisions. If readers stay with the story, they will watch both characters heal, and heal each other. And as they heal themselves, they widen their hearts.
If they read on, they’ll discover the potential of love to heal and transform. Yet before that point, they’ll also see how secrets lead to distrust, cause love to recede and characters (and real relationships) to backtrack. Miscommunication leads to misunderstanding, but the love endures. And it’s the love that keeps both characters moving on their Life Paths.
What themes and questions did you want to explore in your series?
Love conquers all.
How to love during conflict, be it a marital separation or a world war. (A lot of my coaching practice is about resolving conflict.)
How parental love, familial love, friendship love differ from romantic love.
And the questions I pose:
Do we choose who we love, or does love choose us?
Can we love all those who injure us? Can we forgive?
How does fleeting love change us? Catalyze us?
Can unconditional love awaken us to who we really are and thus empower us?
How did you write from a male POV so vividly?
I wrote Qasim’s POV as backstory first, to better understand him. Then my beta readers fell in love with him.
I realize it’s controversial to write in a POV different from one’s own these days. Yet I think it’s what writers do, put themselves in a situation or a point of view to better understand it, and to show others how to understand. I was trained as a child and as a writing student to put myself in another’s shoes. I may make mistakes, but I tried to portray every character authentically, and especially Qasim, as a full, complex character, who has successes and makes mistakes. Just like we all do, if we are alive.
Yet I didn’t find his voice in a vacuum. I’ve lived and worked in Africa and traveled through the Middle East. And most importantly, I had a relationship with a Middle Eastern man long ago, although the true story, the true human I loved, is nothing like Qasim and his story. Yet that person created a launching place for voice and story.
Do you consider Dianna a strong protagonist, a strong female role model?
Absolutely, although she’s young, naive and head-strong in the first novel. She’s left home and family to go seek a career in order to send money home. She hasn’t rented a brownstone with a bunch of friends and partied every night. She’s on her own. She’s striding forth in a male-dominated world and work force, and she holds her own. She holds her own when Qasim patronizes her. And I believe she evolves into a self-empowered hero, someone who paved the way for the women who came after her.
She, like Qasim, is a woman of her time. Women were just coming into their own. The employment rate for women rose from 38 percent in 1960, to 43 percent in 1970, to 52 percent in 1980, and finally reached 60 percent by 2000. Yet these stats don’t say where the women worked, or their entry annual salaries (mine was $10,600 before taxes), or the challenges they met in the workplace, or how much they earned to a man’s dollar. In 1980, women had a career map, maybe even a role model, but they faced a lot of hurdles. I asked for a raise after two years on the job, and my boss told me that the raise had to go to the man because “his wife had just had a baby.”
I’ve heard readers ask about an audible edition of both your novels? Are those forthcoming?
A strong maybe. Stay tuned.
Your book is full of visual and sensory imagery. Is that how you usually write a scene?
I start with a memory, an interesting person from my life or from history, and a question I want to figure out myself. Then I close my eyes and a story plays out in front of my eyes like a movie. I used to think that most people wrote that way.
And how do you write? Do you ever use an outline?
I write most scenes with incredible speed. Most of my language and voice comes from that very first draft, even if it does have a bad plot.
Then I outline.
Then I make sure I’ve written and approve of my beginning, middle, and end, that both the narrative and character arcs are solid.
Then I revise to the middle, then to the end.
And then revise until someone tells me I have to stop.
How much research did you do for your novels? How much comes from your life experience?
I’m including an informal bibliography in my next novel, because I’ve received this question a lot. I was a researcher for five years for National Geographic, so deep research is part of me. Also, I have a personality like a scientist’s, in that I’m incredibly curious and want to get the heart of things, to as near “truth” as I can. Shores is well-researched. I can provide a bibilography to anyone who requests it. Just sign up for my newsletter at https://shoresofoursouls.com, and I’ll send you a complete bibliography.
Yet I didn’t find the The Shores Of Our Souls story in a library. I was a humanitarian worker for nearly two decades, with a work focus in the Middle East, Africa, and Eastern Europe. I spent this time meeting and interviewing immigrants, displaced people, people in war, both civilian and military. I was an international humanitarian law instructor for the Red Cross (ie, Geneva Conventions). I witnessed these people’s life stories and I shared them with the world. I’ve spent time in Beirut, the last time in 2006, six weeks before the last war, with bombing raids already happening up the coast.
So that’s why you chose to write about Lebanon?
Not entirely. My initial protagonist hailed from Alexandria, Egypt. Every country in the world has its unique sensibilities, though. Egypt is completely different than Lebanon. Qasim fit in Lebanon, not Egypt. By the way, the man I dated was not Lebanese. But Qasim just had to be.
Do you have a favorite line in Shores?
The lines most readers love just came to me one day. “We often lose ourselves in love. Rarely do we find ourselves there. Never do we see it coming.” They open the novel.
But my favorite lines are at the book’s end. They’re an homage to E.M. Forster’s A Passage To India. The last lines of all my novels in this series will be a tribute to him. He was one of the first to write about the divide between East and West. I also added a falling feather in the scene because my BFF Laura Schmidt, an amazing writer with an amazing life, passed when I was writing the first draft of this novel. She sends me blue feathers as signs that she’s still with me, and she whispers inspiration in my ear on a regular basis.
Who are your favorite authors? Your favorite children’s authors?
My all-time favorite book is John Steinbeck’s East of Eden.
My all-time favorite books on writing are by Eudora Welty: One Writer’s Beginnings and The Eye of the Story.
I’m an avid reader of fairy tales and myths from all over the world, and my very first book was The Three Little Horses, by Piet Worm, given to me by a neighbor when I was 2 years old. I knew I’d found the man I would marry when he introduced himself as a modern-day Druid, and told me he loved Tolkien.
I also loved C.S. Lewis’ The Narnia Chronicles, and E. L. Konigsberg’s The Crazy Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler changed my life – made me want to write about the world, cultures, history, and how my world related to it all. And it made me start running away from home, much to my mother’s chagrin.
My favorite contemporary authors are Isabelle Allende, Alice Hoffman, and Barbara Kingsolver.
But I almost always fall in love with any book that gets me past the second chapter with its voice and craft. Once I’m immersed in story, it’s tough for me to come out again.
What’s next for author Kathryn Brown Ramsperger?
The sequel to Shores, called A Thousand Flying Things, will be published next year. I’m working on the book cover right now. Then I hope to publish a memoir about adoption, teen suicide, and the mother-daughter bond. I have many books that are still works in progress, including a weird funny memoir on death.
I also host a Facebook Live called Story Hour most every Thursday @ 4 pm EDT on my Facebook Author page, with replays available on You Tube. I also am an intuitive coach at Ground One LLC, and a book coach with my own process. Most of my writing clients are memoirists. My method is called Step Into Your Story! (TM)
I love speaking anywhere, online or off, about story, the writing craft, global citizenship and peace.
Author Bio: Kathryn Ramsperger’s literary voice is rooted in the Southern tradition of storytelling and is informed by her South Carolina lineage. She began her career writing for The Roanoke Times and The Gazette newspapers and later managed publications for the Red Cross and Red Crescent in Geneva, Switzerland. She has contributed articles to National Geographic and Kiplinger magazines.
Writing from a global perspective, her themes are universal yet intensely personal and authentic.
A graduate of Hollins University (Roanoke, Va.), Kathryn studied under several esteemed writers including—Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Eudora Welty; her mentor Richard Henry Wilde Dillard and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Henry Taylor. She holds a graduate degree from George Washington University.
Winner of the Hollins University Fiction Award, Kathryn is also a finalist in novel, novel-in-progress, short story, and poetry categories in the Faulkner-Wisdom literary competition. The Shores of Our Souls won the 2017 Foreword Indies award for multicultural fiction and also won an America’s Best Book Award.
Kathryn is a mezzo-soprano, has dined with artists ranging from author Marita Golden to musician and writer Kinky Friedman, and has traveled to every continent except Antarctica and Australia. She’s worked in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. She currently lives in Maryland with her husband and two children.
“entertaining, inspirational, and visceral; a moving narrative of typically missed breadcrumbs on the way to meaningful connections. A delightful, wandering story with profound, insightful resonance . . .”
What’s in a name? In this gem of a book, The Ancient Way: Discoveries on the Path of Celtic Christianity, author River Jordan beautifully illustrates that the answer makes all the difference in the world. A trip to Scotland becomes a journey, a journey becomes a pilgrimage, and a pilgrimage is defined by the power of intention.
In first-person, nonfiction narrative readers will think familiar for its intimate, accommodating style, River Jordan combines everything that makes both memoir and travelogue captivating. Her story begins with a nudge. “Sometimes I need to listen to the small voice that is the songline of my soul. To hear the whisper of, ‘This way, follow me.’ For some, it is the voice of God, for others their sixth sense. For me it is both; I see them as one and the same.”
Following the lure of coincidence, a series of prompts leads to the west coast of Scotland. The ringing lilt of the name Iona spawns research, and as her will to travel grows, Jordan weighs the difficult way against a busy writer’s schedule and challenging circumstances. “A way would have to reveal itself where there was no way at all,” she concludes. In the end, Jordan employs practicality to get her from her Nashville home to Scotland. “Flexibility and a certain no-frills, down-to-earth sensibility can come in handy on the road. And making a pilgrimage to Iona was going to require a certain cowgirl can-do attitude.”
For all the reasons we’re attracted to a hero’s journey, we follow Jordan as she sets her sights on exploration and personal transformation against uncanny odds that verge on comical. Because it is the frugal, off-season month of November, the weather is frigid, ferry schedules are unreliable, and tourist establishments are closed. Aided by a travelling companion she calls her “anam cara,” she’s encumbered by too heavy a backpack and accommodated by strangers she meets through an online travelers’ global community called Couchsurfing. And yet she persists with an eyeful of wonder, a heart full of gratitude, and a string of prayer beads in her pocket to remind us that all is in the attitude. A lesser wanderer would have conceded defeat in the nearest pub.
Without being heavy-handed, this book speaks to the spiritual seeker, denominational or otherwise. The odyssey aligns spirit with intellect, certainty with curiosity, this world with the next, and all that has come before. Jordan writes, “There are dreams and there are destinies, and sometimes they cross over to become one and the same thing. If so, journeying on pilgrimage to Iona was as much God’s plan as it was mine, which meant we were in this thing together.”
Artfully layering her journey’s steps and missteps with Celtic Christianity’s history, Jordan gifts the reader with perfectly placed fact to heighten her story. “Not all from the history volumes of Celtic Christianity was first kiss, first love, first light. The history of Celtic Christianity is filled with violence, Viking raids, murdered monks, and destroyed monasteries.”
Of the ancient Celts conversion to the Irish monk, Columba’s, novel idea of Christianity, she depicts a melding: “All that was best of their Celtic nature wasn’t lost in translation: they brought it to the table. Reading those histories, I think those monks of Columba’s took a good look at what the Celts had pulled out of their spiritual backpacks and said, ‘Hey, this is good. I think we can use this.’”
A narrative nonfiction book for travelers in search of The Divine, The Ancient Way: Discoveries on the Path of Celtic Christianity takes you from the hills of Tennessee to the hallowed ground of Scotland’s Iona Abbey, on a wing and a prayer, with help from the kindness of strangers. It’s entertaining, inspirational, and visceral; a moving narrative of typically missed breadcrumbs on the way to meaningful connections. A delightful, wandering story with profound, insightful resonance you’ll want to share with your friends, The Ancient Way: Discoveries on the Path of Celtic Christianity encourages you to keep an eye on the sacred along the road to self-discovery.
Claire Fullerton is a staff reviewer at New York Journal of Books.
Sally Cronin has a book blog ( and then some) that I’ve had the pleasure of following for years! She’s the stalwart champion of legions of authors and knowns her way around nutrition and and a myriad of medicinal concerns! Sally and her blog, Smorgasbord Cafe and Bookstore, is beloved by countless WordPress adherents. Today, my book Little Tea is included in her book roundup!
I had the immense pleasure of reviewing this book for the New York Journal of Books!
Never Turn Back by Christopher Swann!
“A contemporary novel that tips its hat to multiple genres, Never Turn Back is intriguing, high-stakes fiction.”
A wonderfully unusual, utterly unpredictable twist of a puzzle with an edge, Never Turn Back warns you with its title that you’re in for something, and hints at the problem with a line on page two, when the narrator says, “The twin memories of my parents are like a pair of blades scissoring my heart.”
Brilliant, evocative, and written in a clear-sighted adolescent’s voice that verges on stream of consciousness and flows magically with the surrealism of this astounding story. Narrator Reuben Land tells this remarkable story of a motherless family’s journey through the winter flatlands of North Dakota, on the trail of his elder brother, Davy, who’s convicted of a crime done in defense of the family.
Reuben’s engaging, first person voice is a metaphor for the malady he was born with: his damaged lungs are commiserate with the breathless tone that lures the reader into siding whole heartedly with the brother he idolizes, while his precocious younger sister, Swede, pens a western based on an outlaw’s hero’s journey, and incrementally interprets the family’s quest to save Davy, who broke out of jail and is on the run.
Father Jeremiah Land has a humble essence that hints at sainthood. An intelligent and pious widower, he works a job beneath his station and is prone to covert, timely gestures that verge on the miraculous, each convenient, pivotal episode manifesting in such a way as to seem like coincidence. “The fact is, the miracles that sometimes flowed from my father’s fingertips had few witnesses but me,” Davy says, and throughout this multi-layered, faith in motion story, there are plenty. When Jeremiah is asked by a concerned friend how the family plans to track Davy, he answers: “I have the substance of things hoped for. I have the anticipation of things unseen.”
On the road to North Dakota, the family is trailed by Martin Andreeson, a federal employee tasked to find the escaped Davy, who suspects the family knows more than they let on. He birddogs the family like a shadow, yet changes from nemesis to friend as the story leads fatefully into the arms of Roxanna, who lives right outside the town where Davy was last seen. When Davy appears to Reuben, he asks Reuben to keep the secret of where he’s living and with whom, for what turns out to be good reason. Family dynamics tinged with the spiritual and questions of right versus wrong as seen through the eyes of young Reuben are at the heart of this unique story. The writing is so compelling, you’ll be riveted throughout a book you’ll never forget. 5 stars and high praise to author Leif Enger. Peace Like a River has made me Enger’s fan.