Starting on Substack

On the occasion, of my son Joshua's birthday this year, I’ve decided to turn my blog into a Substack. First, because I’ve become a voracious reader of Substacks, much as I used to be a voracious blog reader. I pretty much followed Rod Dreher over here and then discovered N.S. Lyons and Michael Warren Davis, and when I saw my friend Mary Ellen Barrett had jumped on board, I felt an invitation of the sort I hadn’t felt since high school. You know, when the older students are doing something amazing and you’re kind of hanging out and watching in an admixture of admiration and envy, and then one of them turns around, and with a shock you recognize her as someone who knows you, and she says, “Hey! Come on! You can do this too!”

So here I am.

Having teenagers of my own and moving into teaching high school pretty much full time kind of killed my writing. I’ve always enjoyed teens, ever since I found myself the oldest of a large family whose younger members kind of thought I was cool. Being eight years younger than me or more, they hadn’t been to high school with me, so they didn’t know how awkward and so uncool I had been, but by the time they were teens, I was graduated from college, and I found I could still speak their language. This ability continued even though I got married and had kids of my own. I wrote young adult novels, taught other novelists how to write YA novels and had a cool gig as an editor, first at Sophia Institute Press and then at my own Chesterton Press. I even recorded a video series on how to teach teens to write novels, but when the publisher who had requested the series backed out, I never finished it, and it languishes on a hard drive awaiting the final edit.

On the personal side, I made the professional move to teaching English in our local hybrid high school and am going on my seventh year there, still talking to teens about literature and life. It feels like extremely meaningful work and now I understand at last why people teach, but I admit that takes a lot of my energy. Oh, and I did I mention I have ten kids? I am no supermom, but my children are lovely people who get even more interesting the older they get, and so far they have married interesting people too.

Aside from life, Facebook and social media drained my blogging, as it did for many of us. It’s so much more fun to discuss other people’s writings than to write yourself, as many of us know. I liked that on Facebook I could post something from my blog and reach hundreds of people. But it bothered me that Facebook had ballooned to a population larger than any country. And I saw how much time Facebook stole from my workday, but I was in denial until the 2020 election year and the sudden revelation of how much Meta-manipulation there was on social media, and I knew I had to bail. So I did. Losing my loudspeaker kind of killed my blog. It’s tough to write without an audience.

I have been trying to find my way back to writing regularly ever since.

Two projects have obsessed me. One is a new series of novels I have been working on for fifteen years which I am committed to finishing before I die, but about which I must remain coy. It’s unconnected to any of my previous novels (so sorry, my fans), so if I finish it, I will have to basically reinvent my audience. I am trusting in the Lord to take care of this, if I ever finish it. (Insert silent prayers for grace.)

Secondly has been what I call the Culture Recovery Journals. This is a sort of wholistic vision of how to live as a Catholic in this particular juncture in time. I write about Catholics because I am one, and as our culture rapidly falls apart, I feel the need to snatch things from the wreckage that I want my children and I to hold onto. This is what I decided to make into my Substack project.

It is not a culture warrior endeavor. I’m not down on culture war: being in the pro-life movement has taught me respect for the culture warriors, but this blog is more about the war of the microcosm of my own twisted heart. Christ told us not to fear those who kill the body but fear him who has the power to cast into hell. I can choose hell by my own selfish will, so I have learned to fear the treachery of my own heart. I will speak about that war.

I am not a man, and thus this project of culture recovery is not the least bit philosophical in the grand sense. I don’t have a sort of large scale plan for how to order the lives of other people, let alone how to run a government. But I am a woman, and I can think about how to order my own life, and what to teach my children, so I’m starting there. John Paul II called women culture creators, so this is my contribution to creating culture, although honestly it’s more like arranging artifacts created by others into a home-like structure, which is what housekeeping sort of is, if you think about it. In my 29 years of housekeeping, I may have once created a table from scratch, but like most of us, I work with furniture—and clothing, and housewares— created by others. But there is certainly an art to arrangement of artifacts to make a homely house, and so these journals are more about that.

When I began these journals privately in 2016 or so, I was hampered by the thought that others would object to this project as a call to “head for the hills.” Well, the times, they have certainly changed. The creek is rising fast and washing away so much of what we assumed could be counted on. The question before us all, Catholic or not, is not whether to preserve culture but how.

So if you're interested in this topic, please subscribe to my Substack. I hope to keep it free always and for everyone, but if you like what I write and want to support me, you have the option of donating by a paid subscription. And I always appreciate your sharing what I write on social media or just among your friends. 

As always, thank you for reading, and God bless you. Please pray for me!

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