Author Interviews

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.

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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.

Interview with Contributor Barbara Hosbach

bhosbach200x200Author Name: Barbara Hosbach

Contribution to Image and Likeness: “Hard Choices”

Bio: Author, speaker, and retreat facilitator Barbara Hosbach has a passion for exploring what scripture means for us today. Hosbach, whose articles have appeared in national magazines, blogs about scripture at her website. Her latest book, Your Faith Has Made You Well: Jesus Heals in the New Testament, takes a down to earth look at what happened when Jesus healed and the hope it offers us here and now. Her first book, Fools, Liars, Cheaters, and Other Bible Heroes, invites readers to connect with a diverse assortment of biblical characters. Both books received the Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval.Find Barbara on Google+, Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon.

About “Hard Choices”

How did you find yourself inspired to write this piece?

Much of American culture today takes sexual promiscuity as a matter of course. As a Baby Boomer, I well remember the “sexual revolution” of the 1960’s; “make love, not war” was the anthem of a generation. When asked to contribute a story to this anthology, today’s culture and the 1960’s began to come together in my mind.

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

Social climates may change, but human nature doesn’t. The choice is always whether to follow the dictates of self-will or to choose actions in the best interest of ourselves and others—no matter what we feel like doing. That choice transcends all generations.

What is it, do you think, about fiction and poetry that lend themselves to illustrating the tenets of the Theology of the Body?

There’s a parable about Naked Truth, who went from door to door in many towns and villages but was always shunned and rejected. One day, Story, wrapped in a beautiful cloak, found Truth alone in the woods. Story wrapped her beautiful cloak around him and wherever they went together, they were warmly welcomed.

People are afraid of the unvarnished truth. It can be threatening and uncomfortable. Nobody likes to feel judged. Everybody enjoys a good story. We may care about and identify with the characters, but there’s safety in observing their struggles from a distance. From that safe distance, we can afford to reflect on the issues raised more honestly.

Your story, “Hard Choices” is an intergenerational tale that effectively encapsulates the sexual revolution in past, present and future tenses. How do you see the choices of past generations coming to fruition—for good or ill—in our present culture?

I think the choices of past generations, like all generations, come to fruition for both good and ill. In the 1960’s, many bought into the false promise of easy happiness through instant gratification, ignoring or rebelling against the constraints of the previous generation. The price to be paid for the “if it feels good, do it” attitude took a while to show up. On the other hand, maybe it took a rebellious spirit to challenge the hypocrisy of the 1950’s prejudices and inequality. There’s both good and bad in all generations.

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

“Movements” poignantly dramatizes the difference between theoretical decisions that seem to offer practical solutions and the painful execution of those decisions. Michelle Buckman offers readers abundant food for thought wrapped in an emotionally charged, skillfully-written story.

Look for discussion questions on “Two Kinds of People” on Wednesday, January 4.

Interview with Contributor John D. McNichol

jmcnichol200x200Author Name: John D. McNichol

Contribution to Image and Likeness: “Two Kinds of People”

Bio: John D. McNichol was born in Toronto, Canada at the dawn of the swinging 70s. He left Toronto in 1988 to attend the Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio. John now lives in Vancouver, Washington, with his wife Jeanna and their children. He became a proud American citizen on September 19th, 2012. John’s first book, The Tripods Attack, was published by Sophia Press in 2008. The sequel, The Emperor of North America, is available from Bezalel Books. His novel for the 9-12 year olds, The King’s Gambit, was published by Hillside in October of 2013. He loves pizza and hates broccoli.Find John on Facebook, YouTube and Amazon.

About “Two Kinds of People”

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

I was more than a little concerned when I first saw what happened to Carrie Prejean, who was denied the Miss America crown only because she stated that she felt marriage was a union of a man and a woman. While I normally could care less who becomes Miss America, she was denied this honor strictly because she disagreed with the current culture’s politics about the nature of marriage. Soon, they started running bakers and florists out of business for the same imagined offense, and then even CEOs found themselves vulnerable to politicized attacks on their jobs or businesses. I found myself wondering how a person who had no real dog in this fight would react if they didn’t consider themselves to have a dog in the fight, but were drawn into it anyway.

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

I’ve always liked the hard-boiled, film-noir detective character, the kind of person who tries hard to be a good man in a dirty world. I wanted to write a story where a similar kind of person has the truths of the TOB illustrated to them strictly through the lessons of life, with the use of a catechism, textbook or encyclical.  One thing that intrigues me more and more about the Catholic faith as opposed to any other sect of Christianity or religion is that its core truths can stand on human experience alone. One need not be a practicing Catholic to see that abortion is a hideous wrong, for example, or that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.  I wondered how a person like a modern Sam Spade might end up seeing the truths of the modern culture’s bullying ethos without the aid of an expressly Catholic source.

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?

Good fiction, like any good art, illustrates the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. Great art makes us want to BE good, true, and beautiful. Fiction and poetry is in a unique position to illustrate these three because, as storytellers from Aesop to C. S. Lewis once noted, you can get across a point far easier in a piece of illustrative fiction than you can in a simple treatise. I certainly learned more about the veracity of the Church’s claims by watching the lives of the Saintly and unchurched, and the long and short-term consequences of their choices, rather than reading papal encyclicals. And, at the time, I wasn’t really formed enough either intellectually or spiritually to where I could sit through a reading of an encyclical, much less absorb and benefit from it.

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?

Most folks go through a period where they don’t feel so much like a beloved child of God, so much as they feel like a red-headed-stepchild of God. By that I mean we don’t feel like the joyful, pious saints we see on holy cards so much as we feel like banged-up, second-hand, rumpled people trying in vain to live up to an impossible ideal.  I didn’t know everyone else felt like this for many years. Even after I started to take my faith more seriously, I only knew I was failing again and again, and absolutely everyone seemed to have their act together better than me.

The good news for me came when I started to read full biographies of the Saints, people so holy their bodies didn’t decay after death. They didn’t define holiness based upon the image they presented to the world, but how they lived their lives, mud-splatted spots and all. Saint Francis could be impulsive and annoying to those around him, waking up the town at 2am to look at the moon. St. Padre Pio had a limit to his patience with the folks who wanted to see his stigmata, and so on.  Many of the characters in my fiction are trying. They do not remain satisfied where they are, but they find it difficult at best to move to the next level of spiritual maturity without some kind of crisis pushing them there, or dragging them kicking and screaming.

My message, I would guess now that I look back at it, is that we’re all in that boat.   A story about someone enduring the same struggles as the rest of us, even in a different format, did more to validate my faith in times of crisis than aphorisms or anything from the current cultural vat of feel-good, vaporous, generic, small-c Christianity we see in bookshops today.

Your story “Two Kinds of People” has this amazing, hard-boiled narrative voice, and I really like the contrast between the narrator’s calloused (not callous but calloused) tone and the victim’s apparent sensitivity and compassion. Was that contrast intentional, and what do you think it shows to the reader?

I’m glad you enjoyed it! I didn’t set out to do that intentionally. I had the crime in mind, and I wanted a believable policeman to unwind the events and draw his conclusions. The character of Sean Capri is based upon a number of real-life people I’ve known who are in the law-enforcement profession, while Danny and his accomplishments and trials was a pastiche of a number of excellent teachers I’ve known. I hope the reader takes away that even someone who has seen the bad side of life can still know the light when it is presented to them. Or, in the case of Sean Capri, know that the darkness is real and must be opposed, even if we’re not certain how to do so effectively.

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

I had a particular affinity for Powers’ “Venus if You Do.”

One of the best part of writing teenage characters is the fresh and new way many of us experienced the world at that age. And few things burn brighter or leave a more lasting wounds than our first experiences of love. Powers notes in a sad and yet uncompromising way how the misuse of even something pure as young love can not only break friendships, but lives, careers and other relationships as well.

Moreover, the character of Bill may seem to live a small life by comparison to Matt, who lives the kind of sordid life that many English professors love to have their students study extensively in their author biographies. But in truth, Bill marries the girl Matt rejects, and goes on to live a happy life as a largely unknown doctor in private practice. Matt goes on to derail a promising career through his lechery, spinning out of control in a vain worship of sex through a half-hearted belief in the dead gods of ancient mythology.  The believable conclusion of these lives is itself a testament to the beauty of the Catholic life lived as intended. There may not be a glorious, promethean ending to it all, nor is there a smorgasbord of vice and arch-sensuality. But there is a quiet joy and happiness that the dissolute often cannot understand, and Powers does an admirable job illustrating it.

Look for discussion questions on “Two Kinds of People” on Wednesday, January 4.

Interview with Contributor Anne M. Faye

Anne Faye, author of

Author Name: Anne M. Faye

Contribution to Image and Likeness: “The Walk”

Bio: Anne Faye is a homeschooling mom of three who writes from Western Massachusetts. A member of The Catholic Writers Guild, her novels include Through the Open Window, The Rose Ring, and Sunflowers in a Hurricane.  Find Anne on Twitter and Amazon.

About “The Walk”

What inspired you to write this piece?

“The Walk” grew out of a piece of shorter fiction written on the theme of solitude. In that piece, the two characters sat side by side on a bench, each reading a favorite book. When I expanded the piece, I discovered their backstories about what drew them to this place. Why were they there? What wounds were their souls carrying?

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

I think that Theology of the Body is a wonderful ideal, but the reality of life is that we usually can’t live up to that ideal. Marriage is hard; parenting is hard; losing the one you love is hard. This story is about two people at various stages of their marital journeys and the struggles that they are having.

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?

Nonfiction can sometimes be very preachy whereas fiction and poetry can broach the topic in a gentler manner.

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? 

It is an evangelization tool about valuing the relationships and family you do have and understanding that everyone we meet is carrying some sort of cross (even when we look at their lives and think that they have everything we want.)

Your story “The Walk” deals with two people who almost couldn’t be more different: a young, overwhelmed mother and an elderly widower.  What commonalities do you think these two characters share, and what do they have to teach us?

Both characters are hurting, albeit in very different ways. In this moment, they reach out to each other, providing compassion and care in an hour of need. Sometimes in life, God places you exactly where you need to be to touch another person’s life. You might never see that person again, but the moment stays with you forever.

Look for discussion questions on “The Walk” on Wednesday, December 28.

Interview with Contributor Dena Hunt

dhunt200x200uAuthor Name: Dena Hunt

Contribution to Image and Likeness: “Pear Trees”

Bio: Dena Hunt is the author of the award-winning historical novels Treason (Sophia Institute Press) (IPPY Gold Medal 2015), and The Lion’s Heart (Full Quiver Publishing) (CALA 2016), as well as several short stories and reviews, online and in print, at Dappled Things, St. Austin Review, and The Pilgrim Journal. She also writes for FaithCatholic, a liturgical publication company. She is currently working on her third novel. She is the book review editor of St. Austin Review. Find Dena on Amazon.

About “Pear Trees”

What inspired you to write this piece?

I became a Catholic while I was teaching at the University of New Orleans and then decided to return to my native rural Georgia, where I taught high school English for the next two decades. After retirement, I returned to teaching in college. It was my students here at the university who inspired me to write “Pear Trees.”

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

I observed the young women I taught, their veiled fears and confusions. A lot was gained by the feminist movement, but a lot was lost, and young women today have no reference point for those losses.   

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

I didn’t write about Theology of the Body. I wrote a story about what is happening to women, to femininity itself. Abortion is part of it. So is the loveless sex so common now. So many young women unknowingly participate in their own degradation.    

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?

It’s the same distinction that has always existed. Nonfiction, beautifully written or not, gives us facts or information; theories, philosophies, or opinions. Only fiction and poetry show us the truth. Paradoxical, yes, but after all, Christ himself used stories to tell truth.

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 can’t answer that, because, as I said, I simply told a story about a young woman. I had no other purpose.

There is something mysterious that occurs between writer and reader. It’s the same mystery that happens when we look at what we know to be art, and it’s the same with music. One sees it, hears it, reads it, and recognizes it. Just as Christ taught the parables: Those who have ears to hear do indeed hear. All art is evangelical because all art is concerned with truth.

Talk to us about the significance of the title “Pear Trees.”  What parallels do you see between the pear trees that give this piece its name and the culture of the younger people shown in the story?

The trees are hybrid, “artificial,” bred as a landscaping device, to create an appearance; there is no “messy fruit” that would spoil the setting. Just so, our modern secular culture attempts to eliminate nature, and natural law.

Look for discussion questions on “Pear Trees” on Wednesday, December 22.

Interview with Contributor R. Elaine Westphal

authorimageplaceholderAuthor Name: R. Elaine Westphal

Contribution to Image and Likeness: “My Pot of Gold”

Bio: R. Elaine Westphal holds a BA degree in English Education, is retired from a career in supervisory management and is currently an active community volunteer. She enjoys quilting, singing, classic movies, and relaxing to classical music. Nature walks are her inspiration for her creative writing. Along with writing poetry, she also enjoys writing articles about local history and nature subjects.

How did you find yourself inspired to write this piece?

One of my favorite ways to be inspired to write is to commune with nature. My daily walks give me solitude and peace to reflect on and/or create new ideas.  Everything has been created by God and since mankind is made in God’s image and likeness, one not only relates to the “seen” but also the emotions of the heart—the “unseen.”

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 often reveal and express the emotional side of a person.  Nonfiction gives us the theory, but fiction and poetry plays out this theory in daily living circumstances and feelings that make the whole notion a three-dimensional experience.

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 believe my poem is an evangelization tool.  In the search for “rainbows” in our lives, their beauty can be found in nature in any season, but the real and only place to find “rainbows’ a promise of hope, is in our hearts.  There we experience all our emotions and from that, grow in gratitude for God’s care, blessings and goodness we have all received.

In your poem “My Pot of Gold,” you illustrate the role human suffering plays in personal growth.  What part does the value of suffering play in how we live the Theology of the Body?

“My Pot of Gold” also has a more subtle approach to value of suffering and searching for inner peace.  In our youth, we try to find all our happiness externally of ourselves. As we grow more mature, we see that the real peace comes from within.  Instead of self-fulfilled enjoyment, we see more value in the love we have in our hearts that we can share with others.  Then we find that because we’ve searched inside ourselves, we can love one another with the dignity God has endowed each of us with.

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

Being a cancer survivor, the struggles portrayed in “Victorious” by Kathy Huth Jones really touched me.  She so aptly portrayed the human suffering experience of facing your own mortality and finally coming to grips with the way suffering can bring one to a deeper level of the bond of love that already existed.