Sunday, November 15, 2009

Turning in the Manuscript

Turning a manuscript to the publisher is one of the hardest things I have learned to do. It could be because I am a perfectionist. It could also be because I am new at all this and feel like I don't know what I am doing half of the time. Each time, however, God has come to my rescue at the last minute.
Even if many people had read my manuscript on Augustine, I was not totally satisfied with it until, just a week or so before my deadline, Dr. Philip Cary of Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania, read it and sent me many valuable suggestions, taking the time to examine line after line, always ready to answer my questions (see an earlier post about this).
I turned in my first manuscript of my short novel on Olympia Morata in May. The corrections went back and forth between my editor and I for a few months, until she felt that it was done. Still, I was not completely happy with it. Since this is my first attempt at writing a novel, I thought I was just expecting too much. "Maybe this is all I can do," I thought.
By a turn of God's providence, I discovered only one month ago that I had to obtain permission for all my quotations of Olympia's letters and poems because, even if they were written in the XVI century, the translation I used was quite recent. The permission was given, but too restrictive. The only alternative was to re-translate everything. The letters were originally written in Latin, the poems in Greek.
I studied Greek for four years and Latin for seven, but that was a long, long time ago... Right then, a young man preached at our church. "Most of you know me for my passion for anything Greek," he said as he introduced himself. The answer! I asked him if he wanted to translate some poems for me and he said yes. His name is Chris Stevens. The result was fantastic, as he was able to catch subtle nuances that the original translator, probably not as acquainted with the Septuagint version of the Bible, had missed.
As for Latin, I was happy to discover that I can still master the language. My mother would be proud of me! I actually read each passage out loud in Latin, feeling like a teenager again. Never mind that, way back in high school, Latin translations were seen as gruesome tasks. This time I actually enjoyed them!
All this unexpected extra work, however, served another purpose. It was buying some time. Enough for my friend and former editor Heather to email me and invite me over. I had sent her my manuscript months ago, asking if she could review it, but she had never answered. I found out why. She had been fighting cancer and undergoing chemotherapy. Being in remission, she was now willing to read my manuscript.
"I need to send it in by Friday," I told her.
"Send what in by Friday??? This is Wednesday night!!!"
I really didn't expect her to do it, but I told her Monday would be OK. She must have worked late into the night, even Thursday, after a day spent watching her three young grandchildren (triplets). Her comments came in three messages, insightful and discerning, probing me to draw deeper into the wells of my mind to find more convincing and poignant explanations of various concepts and emotions.
Her questions were incisive. I had written this book with young Christian girls in mind, mostly Reformed Christians, and many statements were unintelligible to other readers.
"I have been bought with a price," Olympia's father said in my manuscript.
"Who bought? Who sold? What price?" asked my friend.
Well, tomorrow is Monday and the manuscript is done, thanks to Heather, thanks to Chris Stevens, and thanks to God. This time, even I am satisfied with it.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Happy Birthday Augustine!

Today Augustine is 1655 years young. Yes, just read any of his writings, especially his Confessions or some of his letters and sermons, to see how young he really is in his constant quest for truth and sincere communion with God.
I will celebrate his birthday with the prayer that the small biography I wrote for children will help many to appreciate his writings and have a greater desire to know and love God. (Click on the links on the left side of this blog to see the cover and some sample pages of my book on Augustine).
The cake on the left is an attempt, by Pasticceria Colzani, in Cassago, Italy (supposedly the same place as Cassiciacum, where Augustine spent some time preparing to be baptized and join the visible church) to reproduce the cake Monica prepared for her son Augustine on his 32nd birthday. It is made of the same ingredients described by Augustine: spelt flour, honey, and almonds - very healthy in today's standards.
On that grey and rainy day, the cake brought joy and comfort to all: Monica, Aeodatus (Augustine's son), Navigius (Augustine's brother, who apparently had a propensity for sweets), his friend Alipius, maybe his friend and host Verecundus, and some disciples. In fact, it prompted a three-day discussion on the pursuit of happiness, and the treatise De Beata Vita (On the Blessed Life) was the happy result.
The desire for happiness was very important for Augustine, an inborn, universal instinct which is meant to lead us to true happiness in God. For Augustine, happiness is... ultimately, to enjoy God forever.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

John Calvin Still Travels

About two months ago, a man contacted me from Austria. He needed a translation of some documents because he is trying to claim his Italian citizenship, which will allow him to continue his missionary work in Europe. In the course of our transaction, I discovered that he is the principal of an International Christian School in Vienna, and I introduced my book on John Calvin to him. He liked it so much that he ordered four more copies.
Just today, he sent me his school's newsletter with a picture of the book being offered to the school librarian. You can see the Austrian band on the same page.
I am really amazed and humbled by all this. I am glad that the book sells well because good sales will prompt the publisher to continue the series, and I believe the series is absolutely needed. But if the books are well done it's all because of God's providence and mercy in spite of myself - as my publisher and some of my friends can attest.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

God's Encouragement

Finally, after many months of hard work, the second book in my series,
Augustine of Hippo, is at the printshop! It is scheduled to be published on November 20th by Reformation Heritage Books, Grand Rapids, MI.
Of course, I am very excited.
The only setback has been the news that my Italian publisher, Alfa & Omega, could not afford to publish this high-quality, hard-cover, heavily-illustrated book, in Italian. I understood their problems. Still, I was quite disappointed. I believe a book on Augustine will be very well received in Italy, as it appeals to Protestants and Catholics alike. I was begrudgingly prepared to look for another publisher there.
But God was ready to surprise me. After hearing John Calvin, the first book in the series, read during Sunday school class, a member of the Reformed church in Novate Milanese offered to help fund the printing of the second book. I am waiting for a final decision from the publisher, but things definitely look promising now.
I am amazed at this encouragement from God. My vision for these books, as I explained before, is to give our children a simple picture of God's work in His church throughout the ages, with clear references to the historical context and an easy explanation of the progression of theological thought (I am writing an article for Modern Reformation where I explain why Church history is an essential part of our children's curriculum). It's wonderful when others share and support this vision, and especially when God's hand is so visibly at work.