Monthly Archives: February 2015

Pushing Out the Walls

Pushing Out the Walls

Sometimes, I need to push the walls out.

Not go all Big Bad Wolf and huff and puff and blow the house down, but push the walls out. Give myself room to breathe and think and be.

This doesn’t necessarily look right to others, who might see me as dismissive, disrespectful, proud, rude, superior, whiny, isolationist. I don’t mean to be. I just need them to step back.

Think of animals who might allow a stranger to scratch behind their ears or they might snap at the friendly hand. It’s not necessarily ugliness on purpose. There’s often an underlying reason for the two responses.

It’s a strange push-pull: I want to help, want to be friendly, want to share and be with people — people, not crowds — but there are times when the air is sucked from the room and the walls lean too close and I need to get out. Now.

The same feeling sometimes happens when I’m alone. It’s one reason I closed the book review list and limited the editing projects.

There’s weight in editing the work of strangers, people whose voices I never hear, whose faces I never see. These people exist merely as words on a screen, as avatars on social media, nothing more, yet they are real. And the burden of getting the work right for an author who sees me as unreal, as nothing more than words and avatars? Who can either send more work my way or burn my reputation in an online rant?


I entered this biz because I loved stories — reading them and writing them — but that joy slowly bled away and left behind anger. I hated reading. No longer did I select books for their heft and promise of a good yarn. I went for the quick reads, the light fare. Rarely did I sink into books and let their worlds absorb me. Now I edited them as I read.

I resented books.

The same with writers. If they weren’t from the publisher, they were freelance clients. If they weren’t clients, then they knew people who knew other people who knew me, and they were looking for free advice. If they weren’t looking for free advice, then they had found my reviews online and wanted me to review their work, too. Yet when I asked for beta readers, book reviews, or other help in similar vein, only a few responded. Nearly everyone I’d helped before was suddenly too busy to help me.

This may seem whiny and foolish, and I’ll concede that point.

Consider this: If a hotel housekeeper comes home from a busy day of making beds and cleaning toilets, how much physical or mental energy remains to clean her own home? If a mechanic spends his hours fixing other people’s cars, how much energy or time will be left to repair his own?

Where do we draw the line? Where do we stop the encroachment and say, “Enough. This far, no farther”? When do we stop putting ourselves at the mercy of everyone else?

I am a Christian. As such, I am instructed to serve others. However, when does everyone else’s version of service stop being the standard? Where do we stop “serving” them and start doing the other tasks that need doing? When does the housekeeper tell the kids to clean their own bathroom? When does the mechanic tell his wife to take the car to the quick-lube place and have the oil changed there?

I don’t know.

But the walls have come too close and the air has grown too thin, and it’s time for me to move on.

If I came across as angry, I was.

If I whined and whinged, I apologize.

If I seemed rude, dismissive, disrespectful, or otherwise ugly, I didn’t mean to be.

I still want to help my fellow authors get reviews, but I also want to love books again. I want to wander among the shelves of secondhand paperbacks and come away with long-out-of-print old friends. I want to revel in new adventures.

I want to help my fellow writers craft their work, but I also want to fire my own imagination. I want to regain the joy and the wonder of creating the kinds of stories I crave.

So if I go missing from the blog or from social media once in a while, I’m not necessarily gone. I’m just pushing out the walls.



Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

As I wrote on Facebook in the wee hours of Sunday morning:

Not only am I taking down my online shingle, so is the entire Penworthy site. No more editing services offered until who-knows-when.

Meantime, I’m working with writers with whom I can meet face-to-face, and to those with whom I already have a trusting, solid relationship.

It’s sad that the world makes us have to retreat in order to survive.

Here’s the Penworthy Press blog post to which my comments refer:

We apologize for any inconvenience, but we are no longer accepting new clients for our editing services.

There are many reasons for this, including new directions in the main editor’s life and schedule. The decision also comes as a result of a recent phishing scam perpetrated on one of our colleagues, as well as online-stalking behavior from a potential client in which an editor’s privacy was breached.

Meantime, the Penworthy Press collective continues to write, produce art and jewelry, and take photographs.

Thank you for your patience and for your continued reading. We look forward to sharing good news with you soon!

Leave a comment

Posted by on February 15, 2015 in Books, Editing, Journeys, Life, Stories, Uncategorized, Writing


Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,



Life is sneaky.

It can roll along in dependable monotony, perhaps not unpleasantly so, and then it can take a sharp turn, speed down a slope or up an incline, and suddenly the view changes.

Things taken for granted — things once accepted or expected — disappear or become undependable.

What if, in the middle of the night, a pounding on the door signals armed men coming to kill me and my family — or, at the very least, coming to exile us with only the goods we can carry? What if my faith, my daily habits, the words I write, all the normal, mundane, non-threatening things I do and say and believe become punishable by torture and death? What if, in the course of going about my workday, a man brandishes a machete and cuts off my head? What if a bomb destroys workplace, colleagues, the calm of an everyday morning?

Life is sneaky.

It can end in an instant.

c2013, KB

resting at the Oklahoma City National Memorial, c2013, KB

What will I leave behind? Will it be worthwhile? Will it be something the survivors can use? Cherish? Pass along?

Will the words spoken and the stories written have weight, meaning, and resonance? Will they encourage, entertain, inspire, educate, convey wisdom?

Will it matter?

Life is sneaky.

It happens in the everyday while we’re waiting for The Big Day.

It’s only the rare writer who can make his living from the stories he submits or the novels she publishes. I’m under no illusions. But why am I waiting for the mythical Big Day? It doesn’t arrive without preparation, so why am I not preparing?

There is a time and a season to everything under heaven. It’s time to hang up my editor hat. Minor drama this past week has led me to realize that, despite my natural inclination to be a teacher and an encourager, I’m simply not interested in being an editor. Not anymore.

I’m forty-three years old. It’s time to stop messing about.

Life is sneaky.

It teaches lessons we didn’t know we needed learning.

This year’s focus will be on the act of writing, on moving forward on novels, short stories, novellas, poetry, blog posts that have knocked about in my head or lingered in notebooks. It’s time to stop dreaming of or talking about being a serious writer and start becoming one, dagnabbit.

Life — is.

looking up at the Survivor Tree, Oklahoma City National Memorial, c2013, KB

looking up at the Survivor Tree, Oklahoma City National Memorial, c2013, KB


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,