“Ceramics” or “College Meets My Happy Place”

NaNoWriMo 2013 marked the first time I’ve written a brand new novel since… *checks records* …oh, gross, has it really been that long?? Since NaNo 2012, for pity’s sake!

Sure, there’s been no dearth of wordsmithing in the year in between. Blog posts, short stories, even the completion of a novel that, in one sense, I’ve been working on since I was a preteen. Not to mention, of course, hours spent revising Wilderhark Tales, “A Morrow More”, and “Inspired” in prep for publication. And that kind of thing’s all very well and important – even enjoyable, often enough. But for me, nothing compares to getting lost in the first-drafting of a full-length story.

Actually, that’s not true. I did come up with a comparison for it. Hence this blog piece.

Back in my college days, I took a variety of classes in the pursuit of my little degree in general arts. Some were stressful (psychology, sociology, microeconomics…). Some were tedious (English composition, mythology and fairytales, music theory…). Some were refreshingly fun-ish (oceanography, logic, quantitative literacy… Doggone it, how in the world did these left-brained courses out-fun English, mythology and fairytales, and music?? I guess once you take a thing I love and place it in the context of classroom lectures, homework, and midterms, it sucks out all the joy. My phenomenal grades notwithstanding, I’m really not cut out for academia). But the one class I looked forward to like I never did any other was my introduction to “the art or process of making articles (as earthenware, porcelain, or brick) made essentially from a nonmetallic mineral (as clay) by firing at a high temperature)”.

Why did I love my ceramics class? Because it was all about getting into the creative zone. About rolling the soft clay into coils, or flattening it into sheets, or throwing it on the wheel, and fashioning it with fingers and sponges and little metal tools toward the forms I envisioned.

Within the parameters of any given assignment, I could make anything at all. Cups crafted to resemble the Chimera faced by Bellerophon, or the cherubim described in the book of Ezekiel. A sculpture meant to evoke the dark brokenness of a fallen angel. Even a vase in the shape of a book.

Seriously. It’s like I saw this NaNo analogy coming.
Seriously. It’s like I saw this NaNo analogy coming.

Apart from the teacher’s occasional instruction – the NaNo pep talks of this metaphor, if you will – there was proportionately little I needed to devote brainpower to apart from simply putting the time, the trial and error, and the heart into the work I created, every piece like a chapter in the greater story of the semester.

As in a National Novel Writing Month, there were some participants who fell short of the goal. (It’s college. Not everybody shows up to do the work.) As in NaNo, there were some days where a scene just didn’t seem to want to come out right – and by “a scene”, I mean the first several cups I tried to make on the pottery wheel, so much more challenging for me than, say, casting a plate on a mold. As in NaNo this year, there was a lot of ugly coughing – rampant clay dust the culprit, then, as opposed to my recent, inconveniently-timed chest cold. And in the end, I got to look back over all the art I’d produced, and be heck-a proud, and start missing the creative process pretty much the minute it was all over.

A shame there’s not a free NaCeramMaMo (National Ceramics Making Month) I can turn to each year. It’s been too darn long since my hands (and apron, and face, and lungs) have been covered in clay. But at least now I can say it’s not been too long since I last dove into a new novel. What say I don’t wait a whole year until the next one, okay, Self?

“Musicianary” or “Spreading the Word”

No, I did not make today’s theme word up. I heard it about a month ago, when my church had a musical guest by the name of Bethini Williams. Impressed by her performance and engaging persona (I think I recall thinking her outfit was fly, too…), I acted almost completely out of character by chatting a bit with her after service, even going so far as to divulge my super confidential contact information. (Y’know, like the number anyone could look up in a phone book. Top secret stuff.)

            Conversing on the phone a few days later, she asked at one point if I knew anyone I thought should connect with her and perchance get on board with her music ministry in some way. My mind totally blanked on names, and it was only after the phone exchange was over that I remembered, hey, I don’t have to know anyone: I have a blog! So I figure I’ll pull the sitting-quietly-in-my-room version of shouting from the rooftops, and trust that whoever’s supposed to see this and have a part to play, God’ll bring ‘em here and stir their hearts and all that other good God stuff he gets up to.

            Without further preamble, then, my interview with Bethini Williams!

So, Bethini, what exactly is a “musicianary”, and when/how did you first get started in this work?

            A musicianary is someone who uses music to share the hope of Christ with other people. I had never heard the term myself until I spent a summer using music as a vehicle for the gospel. It was kind of like “Making the Band”. None of us knew each other before the summer, but the band gelled and we toured the Midwest sharing the gospel through music. It was life-changing, and it was a perfect combination of my natural instincts: music, travel, Jesus.

            After that summer I returned to college with a fresh perspective, and after graduating I decided to serve with Impact Music, which is a division of The Impact Movement.

Could you tell us a bit about the Impact Movement?

            Yes! The Impact Movement is a college-based movement that seeks to transform culture while creating young African American leaders who can do the same. Impact Music seeks to develop the next generation of urban artists to take the gospel to the world through creative outreach and excellent worship.

You write some of your own songs, right? a) What’s your creative process like? b) Does your music all tend toward a certain sound, or is there a lot of variety?

            The creative process is different every time. Sometimes it’s like a song slams into me and I actually have to work with musicians to figure out the music that I hear in my head. Other times, I listen to an instrumental and reflect and write what comes to mind, or browse through notes in my journal or on my phone as a catalyst. Sometimes it’s done in an hour, sometimes it takes months. I try to relax and let it flow.

            My music is usually describes as “soulful”, and definitely has a mellow feel. But there is more variety than I would think falls under soul or neo-soul music. There is a semi-alternative feel, also. I make music that shares real life, and points people to Christ.

Which of your songs are your favorite, and why?

            At the moment, my favorite song is “As The World Turns”, which is a collaboration with Chris T. from Level 3:16. It talks about how each day there is so much going on in the world and it’s important to slow down. It also talks about the need to learn from each day, and how frustrating a dream deferred could be. We recently recorded it and it could end up on Level 3:16’s sophomore album! They are my family, and fellow musicianaries.

What’s one of your best memories since you’ve started doing this full time?

            One of the best memories I have is from talking to a girl after a concert in Ohio. During our set I talked a little about a frustrating relationship I had been in, and how low I felt after the breakup, before singing a song that talked about wishing you could get back the time you invested in someone. Afterwards she came up to me and shared that she was going through the same thing. So I got to talk to her about how I got through that time, and how central Jesus’ love was. I learned to see and value myself as Jesus did, and encouraged her to do the same. It was a really sweet moment. It’s the payoff for displaying your life in front of a group of strangers: Realizing that someone got hope.

What kind of gigs have you got planned for the coming months?

            At the end of May I will be at a training camp for college athletes where I will be leading praise and worship, as well as looking for opportunities to connect with the young women. I will likely also be a vocal coach for this summer’s band, so will spend 6 weeks helping a group of college students put their set together before they hit the road.

For folks out there who want to get involved, how can they support what you do?

            Truth is, I am only able to do this through other people! We are in this together. I have a team of partners who help provide the resources for me to travel and minister. For anyone who wants to hear more information, they can contact me at impactingmusic@yahoo.com.

Any last words (I ask in my most ominous voice)?

            Thank you, Danielle, for inviting me to be a part of this!!! You can see/hear a little of me and what I do in this video. This is from a duo that I traveled in a few years ago, SouLoved: