Sunday, February 14, 2016

Gifts of the Dark Wood

I recently had a book proposal rejected by the publisher with whom I've worked closely and lovingly for some twenty years. The proposal was for a new chapter book series, with four books outlined, which means that technically, it's four rejections in one.

I've had rejections before, of course. Every author has. But this one scared me more than usual. This time I don't have that steady paycheck from the University of Colorado Philosophy Department; instead I have a small monthly stipend from the early retirement package I accepted. At this moment, I have my DePauw University salary, but my past gigs here were as a distinguished visiting professor; given that it was well past time for someone else to have a turn at that opportunity, I'm here this semester as a paid-per-course adjunct. And after this, I ain't got nothing.

Worse, right now I don't have any wonderful next idea to submit. Indeed, the reason why the recent proposal was (rightly, in my view) turned down is that even it wasn't all that terrific.

So I'm a teensy-weensy bit terrified about: 1) money; 2) my career; and 3) the rest of my life.

Then I went to church this morning, to Gobin Memorial United Methodist Church here on the DePauw campus in Greencastle. It's the first Sunday in Lent, the forty-day period of penitence and introspection leading up to Jesus's death and resurrection. I took one look at the church bulletin, and I knew that in some strange way everything was going to be all right.

The service was titled "Gifts of the Dark Wood."

The opening music offered these sung lines:

There's a path, though it winds its way through darkness.
We would choose to avoid it if we could.
We awake to an unexpected calling.
God says, 'Come, there are gifts in the Dark Wood.'"

I love having a name, and such a beautiful one, for this groping, lost time in my career/life. I'm in the Dark Wood. But there are gifts in that wood, gifts for all of us, gifts for me.

Later in the service we heard the story from the Gospel of Mark when the hemorrhaging woman, failed by all other healers, touches the hem of Jesus' garment, and the bleeding halts. We were asked to write down what it is that we need to be healed from, in this Lenten season, then to tear up the paper and place the scraps in a basket by the altar, taking with us one strip of fabric to remind us that we, too, can reach out and touch the robe of Jesus.

I won't say exactly what I wrote on my piece of paper: that's between me and God. But I felt more at ease in the Dark Wood after I surrendered it.

Even the Dark Wood can be a beautiful place to wander.


  1. Claudia, in my opinion the rejection of a four book series technically counts as only 1/4 of a rejection of a single book. If you had made single proposals for each book in the series and had each rejected in turn you would have spent almost four times as much effort and suffered four times as much disappointment. If the proposal had succeeded, you would get four times as much income, so you can afford to have four book serieses rejected at four times the rate at which single books might be rejected.

    1. Leave it a kind-hearted physicist friend to find mathematical reasoning to console a discouraged author! Thanks, dear Scott.