Thursday, May 16, 2019

Being a Thomas Kinkade Writer: When Beauty and Goodness Are Eschewed by "The Experts"

I belong to a critique group of secular writers. Much of their work belongs to the genres of the dark, urban thrillers or  the chilling paranormal. When I joined several years ago, they admitted they hadn’t read much of sunshine and light like I was submitting.

Recently, a new member offered a simple story of an ancient hunter-gatherer society who actually had the morals to love and remain faithful to one spouse. The cynical realists felt he should include polygamy as part of their lifestyle, but the new guy stood up for his story. He wanted this fictional group to have a higher standard. Good for him!

As writers of fiction, we can create the characters we desire. The late Thomas Kinkade wanted to paint beauty. He held true to his goal in spite of the “experts” who sneered at his works of light. It wasn’t “art” as far as they were concerned. No, Picasso's style of anguished, distorted characters is more to their liking.
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I went to Kinkade's  website to learn a little more. He “invested his all” in his work. He painted “straight from the heart.” Art was a form of ministry, and he gave credit to God for his talent. His mission: “to bring peace and joy into the lives of all” who viewed his art.

Yet the three critical quotes I read on a Wikipedia site came from “experts,” all of whom were either anti-Christian or appeared non-religious. “A kitchmaster.” “A bunch of garish cottage paintings.” And, from this author's perspective, the wordy, “Maudlin, sickeningly sentimental vision of a world where everything is as soothing as a warm cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows on a cold December day.”

So why do millions love his work? Because they're as soothing as hot chocolate with marshmallows! I believe those paintings stir something in the average human soul. The desire for comfort, for home, for life to be savored.  And that's a lofty and appropriate objective for Christian authors.

Are you told your writing isn’t dark enough? Not filled with angst from beginning to end? If your characters are goody-goody with no struggle ever entering the story, then your critics may have a point. But most of us drive our characters—Christians or not—to overcome something. A fatal flaw, a difficult life situation, conflict with another character.

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My favorite piece of Kinkade’s is titled “Perseverance.” It depicts a boat in a rough ocean, struggling in a storm.A golden glow is breaking through the clouds. The message is clear. “Hold on. The storm is almost over.”

Readers want a similar hope. As a writer, I want to inspire joy in our Savior and Creator. I want to offer hope through my stories like Kinkade did through his art. "Hold on to Jesus. Life's battles will end in victory!"

Linda Sammaritan writes realistic fiction, mostly for kids ages ten to fourteen. She is currently working on a middle grade trilogy, World Without Sound, based on her own experiences growing up with a deaf sister.

Linda had always figured she’d teach middle-graders until school authorities presented her with a retirement wheelchair at the overripe age of eighty-five. However, God changed those plans when He gave her a growing passion for writing fiction. In May of 2016, she blew goodbye kisses to her students and dedicated her work hours to learning the craft. 

A wife, mother of three, grandmother to seven, Linda regales the youngest grandchildren with “Nona Stories,” tales of her childhood. Maybe one day those stories will be in picture books!
Where Linda can be found on the web: 

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Is Religious Book Publishing Dead?

Fake news has been with us for a long time. A century ago, after Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) had been out of the country several months on a speaking tour, an American newspaper published his obituary, asserting that he had died penniless in London. A correspondent for the New York Journal contacted him for comment. The author acknowledged that his cousin James Ross Clemens had been near death in London a couple of weeks earlier, but had recovered. “The report of my illness grew out of his illness,” he said in a laconic note. “The report of my death was an exaggeration.”

Publishers of religious books find themselves in a similar predicament these days. Hundreds of bookstores have closed, including nationwide chains such as Family Christian Stores and Lifeway Stores. Major Christian trade shows have folded. Christian authors seldom appear on late-night talk shows anymore. With such visible changes, some people assume that Christian book publishing is dying.

If you hear that, take a look at the facts.

January’s statistical report from the Association of American Publishers (AAP) showed that religious book sales have increased more than any other category, up 8.1% from a year ago.  Click here to see details.

Brick-and-mortar bookstores are closing, not because people have stopped reading, but because they can find more books online. The largest physical bookstore can display just a tiny fraction of the new books published each year—nearly 305,000 new titles in the United States alone. Click here to see how our publishing output compares to other countries.

Then there’s self-publishing. First-time authors now have new technologies to publish their own books. Amazon says that more than a thousand authors earned over $100,000 each in royalties through Kindle Direct Publishing in 2017. Not all were Christian authors, to be sure, but many were. Click here to see details.  

So if someone tries to discourage you from writing because they think books are dying, give them a benign smile. As Mark Twain would say, that report is an exaggeration.