Author: Erin McCole Cupp

Erin McCole Cupp is a wife, mother, and lay Dominican who lives with her family of vertebrates somewhere out in the middle of Nowhere, Pennsylvania. Her short writing has appeared in Canticle Magazine, The Catholic Standard and Times, Parents, The Philadelphia City Paper, The White Shoe Irregular, Outer Darkness Magazine, and the newsletter of her children’s playgroup. She is a contributor to CatholicMom.com and has been a guest blogger for the Catholic Writers Guild. Her other professional experiences include acting, costuming, youth ministry, international scholar advising, and waiting tables. When Erin is not writing, cooking or parenting, she can be found reading, singing a bit too loudly, sewing for people she loves, gardening in spite of herself, or dragging loved ones to visitors centers at tourist spots around the country. Find out more about her novels and other projects at erinmccolecupp.com .

Discussion Questions: Arthur Powers

apowers200x200Contributions by Arthur Powers:

“Venus If You Do”

“Claudio”

“MS”

“In the Death of Winter”

See our interview with Arthur here.

Discussion Questions

  • What should be the relationship between artistic creations and the ideas/ideals the author believes in?
  • How do you feel when a story or poem is obviously pushing a certain message?  Does this feeling differ if you agree or disagree with the message?
  • How can fiction bring someone who may not agree with you toward being more open to your point of view?
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Interview with Contributor Arthur Powers

apowers200x200Author Name: Arthur Powers

Contributions to Image and Likeness: “Venus If You Do,” “Claudio,” “MS,” “In the Death of Winter”

Bio: Arthur Powers went to Brazil in 1969 as a Peace Corps Volunteer and spent most his adult life there.  From 1985 to 1992, he & his wife worked with the Church in the Amazon, organizing subsistence farmers in a region of violent land conflicts.  Arthur received a Fellowship in Fiction from the Massachusetts Artists Foundation, three annual awards for short fiction from the Catholic Press Association, the 2008 Tom Howard award (2nd place), the 2012 Tuscany Novella Prize, the 2014 Catholic Arts & Literature Award, & many other writing honors.  He is author of three books, and his work has appeared in numerous magazines & anthologies.Find Arthur on Amazon.

About Arthur’s Contributions to Image and Likeness

How did you find yourself inspired to write this/these piece(s)?  

By watching my fellow human beings and myself, and pondering the rhythms and meaning of life.

What drew you to writing about Theology of the Body in this way?  

I did not consciously write about the Theology of the Body.  I wrote about human beings and the way they think and live.  As the Theology of the Body admirably suits the way people really are (deep down), it also encompasses my stories.

There is a lot of nonfiction out there on TOB, but the amount of fiction and poetry on the subject is certainly on the rise.  What is it, do you think, about fiction and poetry that lend themselves to illustrating the tenets of the Theology of the Body?  

Fiction and poetry are much better than non-fiction at conveying experience, with all its nuances and ambiguities.  TOB involves intricate and intimate aspects of human nature, and these can be best captured and conveyed empathetically via fiction and poetry.

Some TOB stories and poems can be evangelization tools, and some can be messages of encouragement to those of us doing the evangelizing.  Which do you think yours is, and why do you think that’s valuable to its audience?  

I do not write my stories to be tools of any kind.  I write them to convey human experience – to tell a story.  If they are successful, they help the readers understand a little more about life, about the human condition, about the world we live in.  Anything that brings us greater understanding also brings us closer to truth, which in turn is reflected in the teachings of the Church.

Let’s first talk about your prose contributions to this project.  In “Venus if You Do,” you look at what appears at first blush to be an unlikely topic for our modern times, and that is the worship of ancient gods.  How do you think the idea of “strange gods” plays into the illustration of the complexities of human sexuality as seen through the lens of Theology of the Body?

I write all my stories because they come into my consciousness as stories.  Like all others, “Venus If You Do” was born without an agenda – it is simply a story.  However, reading it as a reader, rather than the author, I can trace out several interesting elements: 1) deviant spirits are real, and if we allow them power in our lives, we will suffer;  2) whether a deviant spirit is an old demi-god, a demon from South American folk religion, or the secular demons of our own society (greed, consumerism, internet addictions, lust) doesn’t matter much – all are able to distort us; 3) the parallel between pagan society and our own is very real – the situation of the Church today is far closer to the situation in ancient Rome than it was 50 years ago.

Then in “Claudio,” you show us what amounts to an extramarital affair that happens only within the imagination.  What do you think this story can show readers about the concept of emotional faithfulness and how that applies to forming healthy, integrated human relationships?

Again, “Claudio” was written as a story.  But, as a reader, I can see that the story tells us of the potential boredom of marriage, the lure of the romantic stranger, the recognition that real love involves hard work, sweat, daily picking up one’s cross.  In the end, Maria das Dores truly sees her husband struggling up from the field after a hard day’s work, recognizes this (semi-consciously) as love, and makes the decision.  All love is a decision.  But the husband still snores while the imaginary lover walks off quietly in the moonlight.

In your poems “MS” and “HVaughn,” you illustrate the effects of choice on the human body, specifically on the female body.  While both poems show radically different choices for their subjects, both end on a note of hope.  What can you tell us about the hope you see in the characters and images of both of these poems?

MS” is based on a real person who made that real decision – I admire her immensely and wanted to record her decision.  “In the death of winter…” is also based on a real, tragic happening – one which contrasts technical/mechanical view of life/death with the human/spiritual view.  If there is hope – cold comfort – in this poem, it is that, in the end the technical/mechanical self-destructs and the human/spiritual prevails, but much is distorted and destroyed in the process.

What’s another story or poem in this anthology that spoke to you?  What in particular in that piece reached out to you?

Dena Hunt’s story, “Pear Trees,” is wonderfully written.  Among other things, it brings home how much the sexual revolution has hurt young women – how it has made them servile to the whims of self-absorbed men (and most of us men, when young, are pretty self-absorbed).

Look for discussion questions on Arthur’s contributions on Wednesday, February 22, 2107.

Interview With Contributor AnnMarie Creedon

acreedon200x200Author Name: AnnMarie Creedon

Contribution to Image and Likeness: “This Is My Body”

Bio: AnnMarie Creedon has been married to her husband for almost 30 years and has five children. She is the author of Angela’s Song, a Catholic romance novel, and is currently working on her second book. AnnMarie homeschools the three youngest of her children, sings on a praise and worship team and also in her parish choir. A native New Yorker, AnnMarie has been transplanted to the Midwest, and has fallen in love with this region of the U.S. She and her family enjoy cooking together, watching superhero movies, and chatting about fandoms. Find AnnMarie on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Amazon.

About “This Is My Body”

How did you find yourself inspired to write this/these piece(s)?  

It concerns me, especially being the mother of girls, that society pushes the notion that women can and should “have it all.”  Not only that, but if we don’t want it all, then we are deficient or backward in some way. Now, I believe that women can raise children, marry, and have careers, but in the pursuit of worldly success, we sometimes lose ourselves, our identities, as feminine creations made for so much more than competing with other women, or even with men. I wanted to illustrate that the notion of sacrifice is not repugnant, that it can shape and form us into generous human beings; and in that generosity, we glorify and serve the Lord.

What drew you to writing about Theology of the Body in this way?  There is a lot of nonfiction out there on TOB, but the amount of fiction and poetry on the subject is certainly on the rise.  What is it, do you think, about fiction and poetry that lend themselves to illustrating the tenets of the Theology of the Body?  

To see this theology poured out onto a page, to immerse oneself in the fictional lives of those living it (or not living it, and suffering the consequences), speaks to the heart more profoundly than any treatise or essay ever could. So then our understanding of Theology of the Body transcends an intellectual knowledge of the subject, and speaks to us on an emotional and practical level.

Some TOB stories and poems can be evangelization tools, and some can be messages of encouragement to those of us doing the evangelizing.  Which do you think yours is, and why do you think that’s valuable to its audience?  

Definitely the former. During the writing of  “This is My Body,” I was thinking about young women, and the tremendous pressure society puts upon them to achieve. I’m hoping this story will encourage readers to examine their lives and appreciate the small sufferings. We are told so often to run away from pain or discomfort. I think it is valuable for people to be told that it’s okay to let go of the past,  to forgive ourselves, to love ourselves, to make sacrifices. It’s in doing these things that we imitate and embrace God.

Your story “This is My Body” has a powerful title that works on many levels.  Can you talk to us about all the levels that the title comes into play in this story?  

It has always stood out to me that the very words used by our Lord to heal us, to save us, to impart a life of grace upon us, are the same words used by those who defend abortion. We can make idols of our bodies, and forget about the soul. But is it the merging of the two that make us the image and likeness of our Lord. In this story, the protagonist, Sylvie, has an unhealthy love for her body, while harboring feelings of self hatred. She loves her body, but hates her soul.

What’s another story or poem in this anthology that spoke to you?  What in particular in that piece reached out to you?  

Two pieces really stood out to me; Erin McCole Cupp’s “Guess Who’s Coming to Sunday Brunch,” and Dena Hunt’s “Pear Trees.”  Both illustrate the potential horrors that can occur when we do not recognize the sanctity of sex. Sex is so life giving and life affirming, and these two stories, both extremely well written,  have an undercurrent of desolation that touched me emotionally. They stayed with me long after I finished them.

Look for discussion questions on “This Is My Body” on Friday, February 17.

Discussion: “The Death of Me, the Life of Us” by Ellen Gable

egable200x200“The Death of Me, the Life of Us” by Ellen Gable

See our interview with Ellen here.

Discussion Questions

  • Bereavement and grief are natural responses when we lose a close relative or friend.  Viktor Frankl, a Jewish psychiatrist who survived Auschwitz, and later became a convert to Catholicism, said in his classic book Man’s Search for Meaning, that we could survive any “how” as long as we knew the “why.” That is, if we could somehow find meaning in our suffering we could draw strength from it to continue on and survive. (John Mallon, 1996).  What meaning do you think Sarah, the protagonist from The Death of Me, The Life of Us, eventually draws from the experience of losing her youngest sister?
  • Relationships with others are a valuable part of our life experience.   How did Jack help Sarah to understand that the grief and guilt she latched onto for so many years were preventing her from experiencing life?
  • What did Jack mean when he told Sarah that her mother lost two daughters the day of the accident?
  • Many experts say that there are five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Which stage do you think Sarah remained in until she met Jack?

Interview with Contributor Ellen Gable

egable200x200Author Name: Ellen Gable

Contribution to Image and Likeness: “The Death of Me, the Life of Us”

Bio: Ellen Gable (Hrkach) is a freelance writer and award-winning author (2010 IPPY) and publisher (2016 CALA), editor, Marketing Director for Live the Fast, self-publishing book coach, speaker, NFP teacher, Marriage Preparation Instructor, and past president of the Catholic Writers Guild. Find Ellen on Google+, PinterestFacebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Amazon.

About “The Death of Me, the Life of Us”

How did you find yourself inspired to write this/these piece(s)?

This particular short story has been one I started to write years ago and it’s loosely based on a true incident that I witnessed.  I have been wanting to finish the story for years, but just never felt inspired to do so.  When it came time to gather stories for the Anthology, I wanted to contribute a story, but short stories are not my forte, so I finished the story and sent it to Erin McCole Cupp and Dena Hunt for their feedback.  Both helped me to polish it so that it would pack the biggest emotional punch (thank you, Erin and Dena!)

What drew you to writing about Theology of the Body in this way?

The story initially didn’t have a Theology of the Body theme, and yet it was the ideal way to help the protagonist in the story see how important it was to live her life.  The Theology of the Body does not just pertain to our sexual lives. It also pertains to how we live our lives every day and how we relate to others.

There is a lot of nonfiction out there on TOB, but the amount of fiction and poetry on the subject is certainly on the rise.  What is it, do you think, about fiction and poetry that lend themselves to illustrating the tenets of the Theology of the Body?

Jesus taught with parables.  Teaching with stories can often be more evangelizing than with nonfiction.  I’ve certainly learned this from writing novels with Theology of the Body themes.  In the first few years after my novel, Emily’s Hope, was published, I received a letter from a 20 year old college student thanking me for writing Emily’s Hope because it helped him to understand the Church’s teachings on sex and marriage better than any textbook he had read.

Some TOB stories and poems can be evangelization tools, and some can be messages of encouragement to those of us doing the evangelizing.  Which do you think yours is, and why do you think that’s valuable to its audience?

Probably more of an evangelization tool about how we live our life and how grief and guilt impacts us.  Its value is in how the male protagonist gently tries to help the female protagonist understand the value of life and the value of the relationships around us.

In your story “The Death of Me, The Life of Us,” you show us the power of love to heal the heart.  How do you think Theology of the Body fiction helps us to build healthier attitudes not just about life but about death as well?

Death is a natural part of life. The minute we are conceived, we begin to die. For some of us, it will be 80 or 90 years. For others, it will end in the womb. The experience of losing someone affects everyone in different ways.  Accepting the death of a loved one is not easy.  Grief is a tricky thing.  Guilt is also a tricky thing. Some people are uncomfortable with how others grieve.  Grief is very personal and individual. By living the Theology of the Body, we can experience marriage — and life — more fully. While death is a part of life, life is still life.  While we are alive, we owe it to God and others to live our lives as fully as possible.

What’s another story or poem in this anthology that spoke to you?  What in particular in that piece reached out to you?

Pear Trees by Dena Hunt was beautifully written and is powerful. With its language and characterization, the author jolts us into understanding what it means to be a sex object rather than a woman — a human being even — to be cherished.

Thou by Gerard Webster is also beautifully written and illustrates the beauty of free, total, faithful, fruitful married love.

Look for discussion questions on “The Death of Me, the Life of Us” on Wednesday, January 16.

Discussion: “Hard Choices” by Barbara Hosbach

bhosbach200x200“Hard Choices” by Barbara Hosbach

See our interview with Barbara here.

Discussion Questions

  • What’s the difference between getting what you want and being contented?
  • When have you asked for forgiveness from someone you’ve hurt? What happened?
  • Think about someone who has had a positive influence on you. Given your own experience, what can you do that might help you have the kind of influence you want on others?